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9th November 2021
The Veterans at Erskine Reid Macewen Activities Centre were recently given the task of restoring ‘The Fireman’s Bench’, however a seemingly straightforward restoration job held more than a few surprises as the group set out to find how exactly the bench had come to be at ERMAC.
The bench had been located outside the old garden centre building for a prolonged period of time, possibly years, and was showing signs of needing some quality TLC. Structurally this was a solid bench with no signs of physical damage, but it was in a fairly sorry state. Our Veterans contacted Station Commander Stuart Murdoch, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue and former Firemen Graeme Kirkwood and James ‘Jim’ Smith to find out more about the bench.
The Memorial Bench Team were at ERMAC when they received the first e-mail back from Jim and found it so exciting to learn the story and hear about the Royal context. In 1990, Strathclyde Fire Brigade were moving to their new Headquarters in Hamilton. Firemaster Clive Halliday wanted to acknowledge the Queen’s visit to officially open the HQ by giving her a gift and Jim Smith, his Staff Officer at the time, was selected to be on the organising committee.
Jim commented that, having researched previous Royal visits, it would be difficult to find something they could give to H.M. that she did not have already! However, after giving some thought to the dilemma, Jim suggested perhaps two park benches might be an acceptable gift. Firemaster Halliday thought this was an excellent idea and added that they should be suitably inscribed.
Jim also suggested to Mr Halliday that as the Royal Yacht Britannia entered the River Clyde and passed Erskine Hospital, it would be nice if a Royal salute could be given to the residents who were all aware of the yacht‘s arrival. So Jim was tasked to telephone H.M’s private secretary, Sir Kenneth Scott, who came back with the reply that Her Majesty thought it a splendid idea too!
The park benches were duly presented to Erskine Hospital by Firemaster Halliday with Officers of the Service in attendance and in the presence of the Management and residents of Erskine Hospital.
While the mystery remains as to what happened to the other bench, this newfound history gave the Veterans even more drive and interest in restoring the existing bench, taking care with every detail as they painstakingly restored it to its former glory.
Once the bench was fully restored, the Veterans involved invited those in the Fire Brigade to come to its unveiling. Friday 22 October saw Stuart, the crew from Renfrew FRS and Graeme attending ERMAC to view the restored bench and to meet the restoration team, made up of Veterans Joyce Mann, George Collins, Roy Smart and John McAndrew.
We’re so thrilled to discover more hidden gems at Erskine and want to thank the ERMAC team and SFB team for their input.