A spate of gorse fires has sparked one of the busiest years on record for a fire station run from inside one of Britain’s leading private schools.
Gordonstoun in Moray, which counts Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh among its alumni, prides itself not only on its league-topping exam results but on having its own firefighters made up of staff and students on call 24 hours a day.
Geography teacher Tim Clarke, 52, took up his role as watch manager in 2002 and this year his says he has faced one of the most dramatic call-outs of his career after a huge gorse fire broke out at Hopeman beach in May.
Mr Clarke said: “I’ve been to quite a few large and challenging incidents in my time, but Hopeman was certainly up there. I remember arriving at the station, and the students had already sprinted over, and were absolutely buzzing to go.”
He added: “We were there for pushing eight hours, and were called back again on in the days following.
“Every single time, I witnessed this young crew – from various countries and backgrounds – call upon their training, thriving on the responsibility.”
He drives the fire engine with five pupils on board. The fire unit is one of nine school “services”, which also include the coastguard, first aid and community service. There are 36 current members and trainees in the fire unit, with 12 different nationalities within its ranks.
Mr Clarke said: “Leading this crew of young firefighters is hugely rewarding, and something I take great pride in.
“It’s one of the highlights of my job.
“To see how hard they work in training, and the time and effort they give to ensure we always have our appliance available, is very fulfilling.”
The fire unit was formed in 1941 by student Stephen Philip. The school was founded just seven years earlier, by Dr Kurt Hahn, a Jewish exile who fled Nazi Germany.
Mr Philip, whose father served with the Auxiliary Fire Service in London, was evacuated from Gordonstoun after the British Army took over the school as a key Allied Forces base in 1940.
Shortly after his arrival in Montgomeryshire in Wales, Mr Philip established the makeshift fire unit that would continue upon the students’ return to Moray the following year.
Today, Mr Philip’s fire helmet sits pride of the place within Gordonstoun House’s North Room alongside portraits of the Queen and Prince Philip.