Tributes to Horsham firefighter who ‘gave his life for the service’

Long-serving Horsham firefighter John Macfarlane who died last week (submitted).
Long-serving Horsham firefighter John Macfarlane who died last week (submitted).

One of the country’s longest serving firefighters ‘who gave his life for the fire service and the community’ died last week after a short battle with cancer aged 65.

Horsham man John Macfarlane retired from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in 2011 after joining the Auxiliary Fire Service aged 17.

Horsham firefighter John Macfarlane (submitted).

Horsham firefighter John Macfarlane (submitted).

Long-time friend and colleague Henry Senior, also from Horsham, said that with 46 years in the job he and John’s family believed he had the longest association with the fire service in the UK.

Henry said: “John was very professional, totally dedicated, and without a doubt one of those people who said if you’re going to do a job you did it well and properly.

“As a friend he was a lovely bloke. If you talk to old firefighters we have a terrific sense of humour and the jokes we played on each other were great.

“But when it came to firefighters he was very unique, with his dedication to the job. He was an out and out fireman. All he wanted to do was be a fireman and serve the public.”

John joined the Auxiliary Fire Service at the age of 17, before serving as a retained and then as a full-time firefighter.

Later John became a fire investigation officer and was so well thought of his expertise was called upon by authorities outside of West Sussex.

Kevin Trust, who worked with John as director of operations, paid tribute to his ‘pioneering work’ in setting up an arson task force, which has been copied nationally.

John retired in 2011, but passed away on July 23 after being diagnosed with asbestosis of the lungs. His funeral will be held on August 12, which will include a guard of honour from Horsham Fire Station.

Henry said that it was sad that John was not able to enjoy his retirement, and while he could not be definite, thought that John’s long years of service may have something to do with his condition.

He added: “You could say he gave his life for the fire service and the community.”

Personal interests included playing the classical guitar, vintage fire engines, and his classic car and old motorbike.

His ‘terrific’ sense of humour included helping winch the service’s stuffed practice horse on to the roof of the fire station.

Henry said: “When you sleep and work with each other you rely on each other for your life and John really was a very good team player.”

“At St Catherine’s there was a constant stream of visitors. He was so well liked not just in the fire service,” Henry added.

“John was such as well-liked character and he is going to be missed by everybody that knew him.”