WHEN Mick Mottram was just a tot he would stand with his nose to the glass of Division Street Fire Station peering in at the engines.
“My mum would have to drag me away every time we passed,” he says. “I was fascinated.”
It was a sign of things to come.
Because for the last half a century no-one, metaphorically speaking, has been able to drag Mick from the service
The 69-year-old will retire on Friday after this week racking up an incredible 50 years with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue – including 32 as a front line firefighter. It makes him officially the brigade’s longest ever serving employee.
“It’s been my life,” says Mick who signed up at Division Street Station on June 18, 1962. “Being a firefighter was all I ever wanted to do.”
And it’s certainly left him with some tales – of bravery, of heroism and of a Nether Green woman who didn’t know her loft was on fire until Mick and his crew turned up at her door.
“She’d called to say she was worried because her inside chimney wall was glowing red,” he recalls. “As soon as we turned into her street we knew why – because her attic was on fire. She was sat in her living room completely unaware.”
There’s been serious moments too, of course.
Mick – who was based at Division Street, Mansfield Road, Wellington Street and Lowedges stations during his operational years – says he has no idea how many fires he’s fought. But there are some that certainly stand out.
“One of the most satisfying was at the Hyde Park flats in the early eighties,” says the father-of-two and grandfather-of-five of Gosforth Crescent, Dronfield. “It was a big flat fire and there was a six month old baby inside.
“Two colleagues went in and I went up a ladder. They passed the child through the window. It’s jobs like that which make all the risks and dangers worthwhile.”
There was also the new year’s eve a bloke decided to throw himself in the River Don after his girlfriend finished him
“We didn’t have specialist water equipment in those days,” says Mick. “So we just jumped in. It was freezing but we saved him. I think he was he grateful.”
And it’s not always just humans in need of aid.
Mick has helped all creatures great and small from cats stuck up trees to dogs down holes, from cows in rivers to horses...well, horses in all kinds of predicaments.
“One thing I have learnt is a horse can get itself into trouble in an empty field,” laughs Mick. “They’re inquisitive animals so they’ll put their head anywhere – like through barbed wire – then not be able to get it back.”
The job was no less eventful either after he stepped down from operational duties to become head equipment officer.
In that role – based at the brigade’s Training and Development Centre in Handsworth – Mick has been at the forefront of modernisation, including overseeing the introduction of gas-tight chemical protection suits and mask radio communications.
“It’s very rewarding,” he says. “What we’re doing is trying to improve kit which helps the guys making the rescues.”
And one of the guys is none other than son Jonathan. He’s followed in his dad’s footsteps and became a firefighter.
“He’s with Mansfield Road blue watch, which is one of my old shifts,” notes Mick.
Now, he’ll miss it of course.
But, after celebrating those 50 years, he says the time was right to finally drag himself away.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he says. “I still remember my first day arriving at Division Street and how excited I was but I have a wife, Wendy, grandchildren and a Harley-Davidson and it’s time to enjoy those things.”
IN the month Mick Mottram became a Sheffield Fire Brigade firefighter...
Brazil beat Czechoslovakia 3–1 in Chile to win the seventh World Cup.
New American president John F. Kennedy gave his commencement address at Yale University.
The second phase of building the Berlin Wall commenced.
A 21-year-old golfer called Jack Nicklaus won the US Open.