To overcome the challenge of becoming a firefighter is one thing, but for a family to carry on the tradition where combined they have 98.5 years serving the community between them is another thing altogether.
Everyone tells the story that you have to be somewhat mad to be a firefighter when you are the people running into the building when everyone else is trying to get out.
Perhaps there is some truth in that statement, but in reality courage, good comrades, trust and knowledge of your equipment is what plays the main part in how well a firefighter operates.
This story goes back as far as 1963 when Stan Cummins joined the Templemore Fire Service. He went on to give 33 years of his life to being a volunteer firefighter.
Coincidently my Dad retired three weeks before I became a Fireman. Things back then were a far cry from the equipment and clothing that is used today. Back then everything was Black, their helmets were black, and their clothing was a donkey jacket with a plastic coat and plastic pull-ups and Wellingtons to keep them dry. Can you imagine how long clothing like that would last in the type of fires that firefighters are attending today?
Back then the main fires they attended were chimney fires, bog fires that lasted days, flooding and RTA’s (Road Traffic Accidents). The machinery that they had back then was a land rover and a pump they pulled behind it to supply them with water.
Stan held the position of Driver Mechanic while in the service and ended up SSO (Sub Station Officer). Every Fireman has many stories etched in their memories of gruesome incidents they attended but also they have good memories where they saved lives and property. Three of the family served with Templemore Fire Service while I, Francis served with Roscrea Brigade. Sadly, although we all have children none of us have anyone serving as a firefighter now, and it looks unlikely that we will.
Next to Join the Service was Richard (Dickie) O Brien, who served 25 years with Templemore Fire Service.
Now let me explain where Dick comes into the family.
Stan's wife, is Tess Hennessy of Richmond, Templemore and her sister the Late Rene O Brien RIP, who was Dick's mother, God Bless her. Their family moved to live in Liverpool and Dick decided he wanted to stay in Ireland so Tess and her mother reared Dick. Dick was always a slim and fit man and played football with Black Castle Utd. for many years.
As we all lived together I always looked on Dick as my older brother and it was not until I could understand what a cousin was and how we had different surnames did I realize I had a great big minder whom I was delighted to be minded by. During his years serving as a Firefighter Dick finished his time as SSO also. Dick is a placid man with a cool temperament which is something that is desired, not just to be a Fireman but also to become a leader of a team of fire-fighters. By this time equipment was fast becoming better for the fireman where they had fireproof jackets and pull-ups with decent gloves to protect them.
Third to join the service was David Cummins, who spent 21 years with Templemore Fire Service. By now immense training was entering the Fire Service to try and protect the Firemen as much as possible. Callouts were now surpassing the old Chimney and as climate change was hitting Ireland Bog fires were almost a thing of the past. Chemical Carriage in vehicles was a new threat to the health of the Firemen on callouts.
Ireland was starting to follow the UK in their equipment carriage on vehicles and even went with their type of Vehicles. The Fire Service now had Lorries, mainly Volvo’s and Firemen had to be trained to drive these Lorries or Tenders as they are called in the service.
Sophisticated Breathing Apparatus had now been issued to all Firemen and there was biannual training where each Fireman not only underwent training but had to pass each course they underwent. These courses lasted initially two weeks long and afterwards lasted two of three days.
Last to join the Fire service was Francis Cummins who joined Roscrea Fire Service and served the least time as I had to retire due to health issues. I served 19.5 years with the lads in Roscrea and I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it. The crew I worked with all had their own personal lives to live and sometimes we would cross paths in our own social lives, let it be through something our children took part in of just something we did ourselves.
But when our Alerter went off for a call it was then that the 13 men I worked with became one, we had a good team and it was when we were needed to be a team we excelled.
Sometimes the crews from both towns would meet up at large incidents or where there was a need for more men at perhaps a bad crash. We all have our memories of the sad times we underwent as Firemen where we took friends and young people from bad crashes but like all crews we too have our memories of saving lives from all sorts of incidents. Thankfully during my time with Roscrea Fire Service I never witnessed the fatality of a child.
I, like my Dad and my first cousin Dickie ended up as SSO. So three SSO’s out of four is not too bad. Sadly on my account, my career was cut short but this was something I had no control over. I wish all my old comrades a safe and healthy career until you reach retirement and for many a year after.