Fireman “stunned” to be made an MBE

A FIREFIGHTER with decades of experience has admitted he was simply “stunned” to have been made an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

John Speak will receive the prestigious honour for his “services to local government” in Market Weighton, where he has been a member of the fire service for 35 years.

John said he received the letter of notification about six weeks ago, asking if he would be willing to accept the honour. But even now he says the news still hasn’t sunken in.

The 53-year-old explained: “I’d been thinking about it for six weeks and had to keep it quiet - which was quite difficult!

“I kept picking the letter up and putting it down. I have absolutely no idea how I was nominated, and I assume it was for the fire brigade because I’m heavily involved in the local scouts as well.

“I was just extremely surprised to receive the letter, I’m still stunned now. It’s no secret that I’m fanatical about the fire brigade but it’s a job I’m paid to do. I’m just a small cog in a big wheel really.”

Having joined 35 years ago, John has been the officer in charge at the station since 1992. He is currently ranked as watch manager and is in charge of 18 other retained firefighters at the Cliffe Road station.

It came as no surprise that John signed up for the brigade three decades ago after his father had been a firefighter. John’s wife Margaret had relatives in the service, while their own son, also named John, has followed in the family footsteps and is also now a retainer.

“My family has got a continuous connection to the fire service,” John added

“I was born into the job - I’ve been around fire stations since I was old enough to walk, there was no way I was never going to join.

“I have loved every minute of it. I have seen some horrific things over the years but you can make a positive difference. It can still affect you, but you become numb to it to an extent, you learn to cope with it.

“The job has changed tremendously. When I first joined, we were predominantly water squirters. The fire was there and you squirted water at it.

“There is a lot more training these days. There was a time that if you could read and write and carry a person across the yard, you were in. It’s all changed now and rightly so.”

He is now expecting to be notified of his invite to the palace in the coming months, where he will meet the Queen.

However, he already has an appointment at Buckingham Palace later this month when he and his wife have been invited to the Royal Garden Party for his tireless work with Market Weighton Scout Group.

* Others in the region who were named amongst the new year’s honour’s list included former Humberside Fire and Rescue Service chief officer Frank Duffield who was made an OBE, Acting Col David Ian Fuller of Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadet Force who was made an OBE, Senior manager at HMP Full Sutton Stephen Tilley who was made an OBE and Carolyn Mary Burgess, who was made an MBE for services to business in Yorkshire and the Humber.