Long-serving Galashiels firefighter Alex Merry leaves literary legacy

A Galashiels firefighter and union stalwart has left a literary legacy following his death last month.

Late firefighter Alex Merry with colleagues.
Late firefighter Alex Merry with colleagues.

Alex Merry was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February this year, a condition he contracted as a result of firefighting in Glasgow during the 1960s.

He died at the age of 73 on Wednesday, September 25, in the Margaret Kerr Unit at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, but just weeks before his death he fulfilled a long-held ambition by seeing a book he’d written make it into print.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

His book is a history of the first 80 years of Galashiels burgh fire brigade, from 1864 to 1944.

Alex Merry, centre, at a Galshiels Burns Club supper in 2013 with, from left, Michael Moore, Billy Young, Keith Cowanand Russell Robertson.

Daughter Nikki Hume, 46, said: “He loved reading, particularly local history books, and had written a history of Abbotsford Bowling Club, of which he was president.

“He was extremely proud that just five weeks before he passed, his book was published and it has now gone into a second print.

“It is a fitting legacy to his lifelong love of books.”

Before his funeral service at Melrose Crematorium earlier this month, his hearse travelled past the town’s fire station, and firefighters formed a guard of honour in tribute to his long and distinguished service.

Alex was also a former chairman of the national standing orders committee of the Fires Brigades Union, a role he was proud of having held.

Tam McFarlane, a union executive council member for south-west Scotland, said: “From the day that Alex joined the Fire Brigades Union in 1965, he was an active and dedicated member.

“Members who had the privilege of seeing him in action at conference will never forget his dedication and skill in supporting delegates and ensuring that everyone received fair treatment, no matter the issue.

“Even after his retirement, Alex continued to support our members by sharing his knowledge and skill in our education programme.

“He gave sessions at many of our schools and always inspired members with his enthusiasm and commitment to trade union values.

“A generation of firefighters and union members owe Alex an enormous debt of gratitude, and we were lucky to have him as a member.”

Born in Glasgow in 1945, Alex joined the city’s fire brigade in 1965.

In 1971, Alex took a job with Edinburgh Airport’s fire service and he and Ann relocated to the then-new town of Livingston in West Lothian.

In 1976, they were on the move again, this time relocating to Galashiels after Alex landed the job of leading fireman at the town fire station.

In 1980, Alex became a councillor for what was then Ettrick and Lauderdale Council, a role he held for 12 years.

He was a member of many clubs and organisations within Galashiels and beyond, serving as president of its Burns club, Abbotsford Bowling Club and Melrose Bridge Club.

He was also a member of Gala Rugby Club and an erstwhile chairman of Galashiels Braw Lads’ Gathering.

In 2000, Alex retired from the fire service after 35 years’ service, but he wasn’t quite ready to call time on his career and took up a part-time position as fire safety officer at the Borders General Hospital, a job he held for two years.

Nikki added: “He remained positive and dignified until the very end. He wasn’t scared. He knew what was happening and was at peace, and the family are so proud of his strength and courage with his biggest life battle.”

Alex is survived by wife Ann, daughter Nikki and grandchildren Lauren and Fraser.

His fire brigade history is available at Trophy Guy in Market Street in Galashiels, retailing at £6.99.