Fire Officer retires after 32 years

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Athenry Fire-Brigade’s Station Officer, Mickey Somers of Clarke Street, Athenry, retired recently after serving 32 years with the part-time brigade, the last 20 as Station Officer.

At a function in Athenry’s New Park Hotel, attended by all his local colleagues, Assistant County Fire Officers Michael Clifford and Paul Duffy and representatives from other part-time brigades such as Ballinasloe, Tuam, lnishmore, Mountbellew, Loughrea and Gort, he was presented with a crystal glass brandy decanter and a set of crystal glasses in recognition of his enormous contribution over the years.

Mickey remembers the first fire he attended when he began with the Athenry brigade in 1972. “The late Frank Kilkelly was Station Officer” he recalls, “and Pa Hall was Assistant Station Officer. We were called to a fire in a bog in Killimordaly in the early hours of the morning and following directions from a local man, I promptly found myself up to my neck in a bog hole!”

After that inauspicious start, there were many adventures to come, some of them naturally, quite traumatic. They first had Goddess Fire Engine purchased from the Civil Defence which they had until 1986 and later in a well-appointed Bedford tender. Paddy Somers drove the Goddess and Michael Flannery drove the Bedford.

There are a few things about the Athenry brigade that most locals would not be aware of. “More than 50% of our calls are to assist Galway Fire Brigade” says Mickey, “and the number of bogus call-outs is quite high.

Before alerts (bleepers) were introduced in 1985, my whole family had no choice but to be involved when a call came in. I had a loud bell connected to my home phone and often my wife Mary would arrive on her bike at the Canton Hall to inform me of a fire and I would have to mobilise the tender and driver and call to each member’s home to pick him up.”

In 1992 Mickey was presented with a gold medal to mark twenty years’ service and two years ago he was awarded a Gold Flame in recognition of thirty years.

In 2003 along with Michael Hughes of Mountbellew Fire Brigade, he represented the County Galway part-time brigades at a reception in Arus an Uachtarain where they were welcomed by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

“During my thirty-two years with the brigade, we attended many fires and road-traffic accidents in which people lost their lives. Coming from a small town where almost everyone knows everyone else, your hope is always that the accidents do not involve a neighbour or a friend. One accident that comes to mind was when a Renault 4 car carrying an incredible nine people crashed into a railway bridge. All nine survived.”

Mickey concedes that though he looks forward to a run of uninterrupted night’s sleep in his retirement he will miss the buzz and satisfaction of the job and the camaraderie of the eight-strong Athenry Fire Brigade.

Athenry’s new Station Officer is Jody Kilkelly.

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About this record

Written by Francis Kennedy

Published here 28 Dec 2023 and originally published Christmas 2004

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