After a long and distinguished career in the fire services, Pauric Cullen, Station Officer in Longford town hung up his helmet for the final time, recently as he gathered with colleagues, family and friends to celebrate his retirement.
The Mountmellick native has been at the helm of the Longford Fire Services for the last 16 years and experienced some of the most horrific fires and road traffic accidents in fire service history, during his time in Longford.
The inferno at St Mel’s Cathedral on that fateful Christmas morning in 2009 alongside the fires at Mulleady’s Recycling and C&D Foods in Edgeworthstown a few years back, as well as attending the scene of many road traffic accidents where young people died are just a number the many incidents that sprung to Pauric’s mind, as he recalled his 37 year career in the fire services
In 1974, a youthful Pauric began working at Kildare County Council where he trained as a draughtsman. From there he joined the local fire brigade in Naas on a part-time basis. “From there then, I went to Dublin Corporation for a short time and then I decided to do a bit of travelling, bought myself a round the world ticket and headed off to Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and across the USA for six months,” he said, adding that when he returned to Ireland after six months he then joined the fire services in Maynooth where he progressed to the position of sub officer. “Around 1985 I started full time as Station Officer in Leixslip where a new fire station had been opened and then I moved to Mullingar. I was there for 10 years and then I arrived in Longford where I remained for 16 years up to my retirement last week.”
With such a long career under his belt now, Pauric still remembers the many tragedies he was faced with during that career and the learning curve that faced his colleagues and he as a result.
“For anyone in the Fire Brigade, the fatalities that we meet on the road are probably the most difficult to deal with,” he said sadly. “You always think that is someone’s mother, father, brother or sister and there were times when it was very difficult to deal with. You think of the impact on the family left behind; but I suppose as the year’s went on I became somewhat hardened to it, you have to because it becomes part of what we are and what we as fire men are faced with every day. Now-a-days there are counselling services available for those dealing with tragedies like that which is very helpful.”
Over the past few years, Pauric was assigned to a role which involved the training of members of the Fire Brigade, not just in Longford, but throughout the whole country. “That has been a role which I have enjoyed immensely,” he smiled. “Something I am also very proud of is the participation and success of Longford Fire Brigade in the Rescue Organisation Ireland (ROI) competition which has seen the the service remain in second position nationally for the past few years. We also represented Ireland on the world stage of the competition, earning sixteenth in the world. The lads will be once again participating in the national competition later this month and I would like to wish them the best of luck.” The retired station officer also completed a Masters Degree in Health and Safety at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) in 2009.
Pauric walks on a daily basis and is a keen bird watcher. He has also carried out surveys over the last few years for Birdwatch Ireland and is a member of the Fire Services Trust where he collects and restores fire engines and equipment at vintage rallies and shows across the country. “I have just finished restoring a 1938 Beresford Stork Fire Pump which is running and according to the experts is probably the only one doing so,” Pauric proudly added. “Mt most prized possession is a 1956 Series I Landrover, which I restored and this was the first fire engine based in my home town of Mountmellick. I also have the trailer and pump which came with it and it is one of seven that were based in across Laois at the time. The oldest item that I have restored is a hand cart 1898, which was part of a works brigade.
Now that he is retired, Pauric plans to help his wife Geraldine in her new health and safety training business, walk more, spend more time with his sons Gary and Jamie and he has also been asked by the organisers of ROI to become the assistant assessor in the competition, a role which he is looking forward to. He will also extend his love of walking by including additional hill walking in the Slieve Bloom mountains. He is also hoping to sleep better at night as it will be the first time in a long number of years that he will not have to be conscious of the little bleeper alerting the fire brigade members to an emergency and he is also looking forward to moving back to his home town of Mountmellick in the future. “I hope to walk more in Slieve Bloom, catch up on sleep...no bleeps to worry about at night time and help out my wife in her new business Sher-Fire Health and Safety Training which can be accessed on firstname.lastname@example.org,” he added