Death of Barnoldswick firefighter

Tom Bolton
Tom Bolton

A MAN who spent more than three decades in the Barnoldswick fire service has died aged 83.

Mr Tom Bolton, who would have celebrated his 84th birthday last Tuesday became a retained fireman in 1950 and served as Station Commander for 20 years, retiring in 1982 aged 50.

Mr Bolton attended Gisburn Road School and was the first pupil over the threshold of the “new” Barnoldswick Modern School. His former teacher, the late Mr Rennie Nutter, had told his pupils the first one through the door of the new school would receive half a crown and it was Tom who took the prized coin.

On leaving school aged 14, he went to work for his grandfather alongside his brother, Jimmy. The two were employed in the family plumbing business, Thomas Wilson and Son, at the “brick school”, now Pendle Nursery.

In 1949 he married Edna and in 1950, Mr Bolton successfully underwent his medical to join the fire service and his wife gave birth to their son, Geoff.

Mrs Bolton recalls how the late Mr Bill Broughton was fire chief at the time and how Tom loved every minute - his “long legs coming in very handy for the straight, short run from their then home in Rainhall Road to the fire station.”

For 30 years, family life revolved around the fire station and the sound of the siren calling the town’s firefighters to another incident. In the late 1950s Barnoldswick’s retained crew of around 20 were often out tackling blazes at mills and farms as the fire bug struck - the culprit never being caught. Chimney fires, chip pan fires and road accidents were also regular call-outs.

The town’s fire station also hosted events for the firemen’s families, with popular children’s Christmas parties. “We were like a family,” recalled Mrs Bolton. “Tom always said we had the best out of Barnoldswick Fire Brigade. Everyone knew everyone else and we all helped each other out.”

At the age of 50, Mr Bolton retired from the service. His colleagues ceremoniously picked him up in an armchair inside the station and carried him outside, where the chair was set down and the doors were closed. After 32 years of service, he then had to walk round to the watch room and knock to enter!

He carried on working for the family business and after retiring enjoyed a game of golf, chaired Barnoldswick Gilbert and Sullivan Society and became involved with the West Craven Customer Panel, successfully working hard to have a children’s play area built on Coates Estate.

He leaves his wife, son and two grandchildren. The funeral takes place on Thursday with a service at Holy Trinity Church followed by cremation at Skipton.