Bravery medal call for Lothians tragic fire hero Ewan Williamson

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By Shaun Milne

FALLEN fire-fighter Ewan Williamson should be honoured with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his heroism, it was suggested today.

The 35-year-old, who died tackling a blaze at the Balmoral Bar in Edinburgh’s Dalry district little over a week ago, will be laid to rest tomorrow.

BRAVE: Ewan Williamson
BRAVE: Ewan Williamson

But now there are calls for fire-fighter Ewan – the first in Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service to die in the line of duty – to be posthumously honoured.

Dangerous

Edinburgh Central MSP Sarah Boyack has tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament calling on all politicians to salute tragic Ewan.

She said: “Recognition with the Queen’s Gallantry Medal would acknowledge his personal commitment and also highlight the dangerous work that fire-fighters do on behalf of us all.”

Edinburgh West MP John Barrett agreed, and added: “It is right that a man as brave and decent as Ewan Williamson ought to have his actions recognised. It is for people like him that such medals exist.”

Ewan died when a floor at the bar collapsed on July 12 in an early morning blaze which colleague Oliver Carrigan only just escaped.

It was understood tragic Ewan should not even have been working, but had agreed to swap shifts with a colleague as a favour.

Twenty people were rescued from flats above the inferno which broke out directly across from a petrol station.

Investigations into the cause were continuing, but the dangers face by his colleagues highlighted again when three fire-fighters were taken to hospital on Sunday after tackling a ferocious blaze at the British Heart Foundation on the same street.

Keith MacGillivray, chairman of the Fire Fighter’s Charity, said: “This tragic event highlights the difficult and gruelling circumstances that fire-fighters have to face daily.”Fire Fighter Death Balmoral pub

“For his outstanding courage, to be recognised this way would be a great honour for his family, colleagues and all that knew him.”

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Board convenor Mike Bridgman also lended his own voice to the call for a medal.

He said: “Ewan was a courageous fire-fighter as are all the fire-fighters that serve our city.

“I would support anything that honours his memory and I’m sure that the whole Board would back me on that.”

Mr Williamson’s family, who will first hold a private funeral service in his hometown of Kinross before moving onto a packed-out service at St Giles in Edinburgh tomorrow, have so far not spoken about the tragedy.

But friend Dominique Jacquel, a team-mate of Ewan’s at WHEC Polonia basketball team, said the call for a medal was “fantastic”, adding: “The entire team is 100 per cent behind this.”

Honour

There is precedent for such a move too.

Glasgow Airport bomb hero John Smeaton, who only last week married his US girlfriend Christy in Fife, received the honour along with others for helping foil a terror plot in 2007.

Fluer Lombard, the first female fire-fighter to die in peacetime Britain during a supermarket fire in in Bristol three years ago, was also honoured.

Tomorrow hundreds of fire-fighters will line the streets of Edinburgh in honour of their fallen colleague as a fire-engine carried his coffin to St Giles. Every brigade in the UK is expected to be represented.

Thousands of people from all walks of life are expected to turn out to show their respects along the route from his old watch command at Tollcross, past the fire brigade HQ at Laurieston Place and then onto the High Street for a service scheduled to begin at 1.30pm.

A final service will be held at Mortonhall Crematorium in private for Ewan’s family and close friends.

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