So much has been written and spoken about Paul, and without any doubt he had an illustrious career and was so dedicated to improving the lives of others. Paul was simply outstanding in his contribution to the global fire sector and leaves a legacy behind him in many areas. He was a fabulous mentor, and was always on hand to give support, advice and have an honest conversation when needed. He has been an inspiration to many throughout their careers, me included.
Paul worked hard behind the scenes in his passion to make a difference for charities and was Chair of both The Fire Fighters Charity and The Children’s Burns Trust, positions that he was very proud to hold.
Whilst I can echo and be proud of all of Paul’s achievements, I am most honoured and privileged to have been Paul’s friend. So where do I begin…
Paul and I first met when he joined Wiltshire Fire Brigade. When Paul came to Wiltshire, it was at a time of challenge and uncertainty for the Service and he brought with him a sense of real professionalism, engagement, enthusiasm and the desire to make Wiltshire a first-class fire service. We very soon became friends and shared some memorable times working together.
On regular occasions when Paul and I met up, we often laughed about our time working together in Wilshire. There are some stories which bring back great memories.
Apart from the many different, challenging and sometimes fairly unique incidents that we attended together, a couple of memories immediately come to mind.
Wilshire had an exchange with Upsala Fire Service in Sweden where Paul together with his wife Helen led the Wiltshire contingent on two occasions. They were both the main figureheads within the party, and they ensured that the visit to Upsala and the return was a friendly and interesting exchange for both fire services. With Paul’s sense of humour and Helen’s sensible head they made a great team and perfect leaders and hosts, which at the time brought the two Services closer together both professionally and cemented many friendships.
On one of the occasions when Upsala Officers and partners were being hosted by Wiltshire, Paul and I were tasked by the Chief to organise a splendid hog roast on the final evening before the visitors left. Unbeknown to us, the Upsala flights had been changed to an earlier time in the day (which neither of us had thought about confirming when they were actually leaving), therefore that evening, we had no visitors to share the hog roast and were left with so much food, and also ‘egg on both our faces’. The then Chief Fire Officer called Paul and me in and said that our organisational skills left something to be desired, and in his opinion how on earth could we ever lead a fire service in the future if we could not organise a simple event. How wrong could one person be, when looking at the achievements Paul accomplished in his career. Obviously at the time, in jest Paul blamed me, and I blamed him, but we were both as guilty as charged and have dined out on it with our Swedish friends on many occasions.
Host gifts were always exchanged and seemed to get more elaborate on each occasion. One time, when leaving Upsala, Paul was presented with a cast-iron pot made from ancient gun cannons (apparently only four were ever produced – with two going to royalty). It was so heavy and cumbersome that it took two of us to carry it. Paul with all his true negotiation skills and charm was able to blag excess baggage at no additional charge with the airline and the passage through customs with no further questions asked. Thank goodness we had the then Fire Services National Benevolent Fund (now The Fire Fighters Charity) for our back problems after that lift!
Paul and I on occasions went clay pigeon shooting, and whilst Paul had achieved some amazing things in his life, the art of clay pigeon shooting was definitely not one of them. The safest place to be when Paul was shooting was to be sat on the clays, as on many occasions those around him on the shoot had to duck for cover.
When getting married to Lesley, I asked Paul to be my Best Man, although in jest, I did have some ‘reservations’ on what he would actually bring up in his speech at the wedding. I am very grateful to CFO Andy Hopkinson, who kindly sent me over the draft working of Paul’s speech, which was in his office. Seeing Paul’s words written down were really moving, although I was a tad relieved that some of his notes and comments did not make the final cut of his speech.
Paul’s sense of humour was infectious and even now at a social event, I still expect him to walk through the door bringing with him that smile, mischievousness and laughter to the occasion.
A bond between our families has grown ever stronger over the years and will always remain even in Paul’s passing. I know he will be looking down to ensure that Helen, Jessica and his family are well looked after.
Friendship transcends this world. Memories made will never be forgotten and have created a lasting impression on those Paul left behind. Everyone became a better person for having known Paul.
‘Paul, my best friend, my Best Man – you always will be, and are sorely missed.’