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About three decades ago Tarbert coastguard George Baird casually asked John Winnard: ‘What are you doing on Thursday night? Why don’t you come along for the craic.’
On Thursday November 22, station officer John Winnard was recognised for 30 years of service with HM Coastguard.
Speaking at a special family-friendly reception at Tarbert Coastguard Station, 57-year-old John said: ‘Over the years there have been plenty of ups and downs – but a lot of craic as well.’
An Islay man and engineer to trade, John spent many years at the Ardpatrick Station as station officer, but joined Tarbert in 2016 when Ardpatrick closed. Christine, his wife of 31 years, also spent 11 years with the Coastguard and herself received a valedictory certificate.
It has played a large part in their lives and John acknowledged: ‘It’s a family thing. When you get a shout, it doesn’t just affect you but the whole family.’
Apologising for being unable to attend the evening, HM Coastguard area commander Jonathan Hart sent a message praising John’s ‘calm, considered and authorotative approach’ in responding to a wide range of incidents over the years, adding he had ‘demonstrated the very highest standards of HM Coastguard leadership’.
Kathrine Duffin, senior coastal operations officer, added: ‘I want to add my own massive thanks to John and Christine. John has been steadfast and a great leader of the team over the past three years I have been here and through challenging times.’
There have been lighter moments. John recalled attending a shout at a caravan site one evening where there was a report of flashing lights being seen out at sea. The man reporting the incident told the Coastguard volunteers: ‘There were nine flashes altogether and it was the same last night.’
It was a navigation beacon.
Asked what had changed over the years, John replied: ‘We carry out a far wider range of tasks than we used to, liaising closely with Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
‘We train and train and when the shout goes up, the professionalism shines through.’