Renewed calls for Ewan Williamson's bravery to be honoured


By Michael MacLeod

FORMER chancellor Alistair Darling has called on officials to fast-track a gallantry award for tragic fireman Ewan Williamson.

The Labour MP filed a nomination for the 35 year-old to be honoured with a Queen’s Gallantry Medal last November after a public petition gathered thousands of signatures.

But the nomination has been delayed while police and the Health and Safety Executive probe the circumstances of Ewan’s death.

He lost his life fighting flames in Edinburgh’s Balmoral Bar last July, during which 20 people – including a baby – were saved from the Dalry flats above the pub.

Mr Darling, who serves for the Edinburgh South West ward, believes Ewan’s bravery deserves an award regardless of the probe’s findings and wants the honour to be granted before a Fatal Accident Inquiry.

It is understood Ewan’s colleagues in the fire service agree with Mr Darling that no matter what the HSE and police probe finds, Ewan’s actions should be acknowledged as “outstanding bravery.”

He said last night: “I cannot see why the police enquiry should delay an award which acknowledges Ewan Williamson’s outstanding bravery.

“His actions that night should be recognised not just for his family and his friends but as a public acknowledgment of exemplary action.”

The Queen’s Gallantry Medal has been given for acts of bravery to firefighters, police officers and military personnel in the past.

Colleagues from Ewan’s former station at Tollcross in the city centre held a poignant service last Monday (July 12) to mark the one-year anniversary since his death.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue said the award nomination was something they would be pleased to see pursued.

But they said the delay in finding answers has made life “difficult” for everyone who knew Ewan.

Deep sense of loss

She said: “We know the honour would mean a lot to those who knew Ewan.

“It is important that he is recognised for what he did that night.

“Much has happened in the year since Ewan died but there is no doubt that the impact of his death sent shockwaves throughout the service, which is renowned for being a close knit community.

“It has been a very difficult year for everyone working for the service, his colleagues have felt his loss very deeply.

“We still have a police inquiry going on about the circumstances surrounding his death, which makes it even harder; we still don’t have the answers.”

Following the tragedy, thousands of people lined the streets of the capital to watch his funeral.

Ewan’s award nomination will remain in limbo according to a spokesman for the Honours and Appointments Secretariat, based at The Mall in London.

They said: “The case is still under consideration.

“As the incident remains part of a formal police investigation, the nomination cannot be progressed until this is completed.

“At this stage, we are unclear when this is likely to be.”

“Difficult time”

Even if no wrongdoing is discovered, the HSE said a Fatal Accident Inquiry remains a distinct possibility due to standard procedure.

A spokesperson for Health and Safety Executive said: “The joint Lothian and Borders Police and HSE investigation into the death of Ewan Williamson is ongoing and involves a number of agencies and technical specialists.

“While the investigation continues HSE cannot comment further, other than to add that it is not unusual for an investigation of this type to take time to conclude to ensure all the facts are considered.”

Ten Lothian and Borders police officers have been dedicated to the case since it began last year.

A spokesman for the force said: “The inquiry into the death of Ewan Williamson within the Balmoral Bar in Dalry Road, Edinburgh, on July 12, 2009, is still ongoing.

“We are in regular contact with Ewan’s family to keep them fully updated on the progress of the inquiry.

“The Williamson family have asked that their privacy is respected during this difficult time.”