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76 years a firefighter
Like most volunteers, Duncan Holman doesn’t think his time as a firefighter was anything too flash. He just wanted to help people in their time of need.
Story from the Pakenham Gazette
But even the super-modest Mr Holman, now 90 years old, surely has to admit that the record-breaking 76 years he has devoted to the firefighting cause is nothing short of extraordinary.
A former 36-year captain of his beloved Longwarry brigade, he was the first CFA member to be presented with a 70-year service medal. Upon bestowing him with the honour, Chief Officer Euan Ferguson even proclaimed that he had never laid eyes on such a medal before.
Mr Holman’s time as a firefighter pre-dates CFA. It was simply known as ‘the bushfire brigade’ when he joined as a 14-year-old.
“I was mad on the fire brigade,” he admitted from his room at Hillview Bunyip Aged Care recently. “I ran around with the brigade for a fair while before I joined up too – I just got in their road most of the time!”
But it wasn’t long before he became an indispensable part of the fabric of the local firefighting community.
“I loved the camaraderie and just being able to help people,” he explained. “But I was doing it mainly for a bit of fun in those days. You got serious later on.
“All my mates were involved in the fire brigade and when I first got the Longwarry brigade going I recruited all my mates and we had a wonderful time.”
The Longwarry brigade did exist, technically, when Mr Holman made the switch from Drouin but it wasn’t the most active around.
As well as running unopposed as the brigade’s captain for over three decades, he served alongside his wife, local girl Betty, who was Longwarry’s communications officer for over 30 years.
Mr and Mrs Holman, and their son Peter, can lay claim to yet another extraordinary feat - the three members of the same family have been awarded the RSL’s National Medal for service to their community. Mr Holman keeps his and Betty’s incredible array of medals in a case in his wardrobe - only to be seen upon request.
He described training in his early days in CFA simply as “minimal. We didn’t have any equipment to train with - we didn’t have a vehicle or anything. My main theme was to keep fit and disciplined. I liked to make sure if you told the guys to do something, they did it.”
An Army veteran and mechanic by trade, Mr Holman hated turning out to the inevitable car crashes along the highway as traffic flow increased through Longwarry over the years.
As for Mr Holman’s most memorable turnout - that’s an easy one.
“In Drouin they had this old flax mill and it caught on fire one night. Bales upon bales were stacked in the shed and we had a hell of a job in front of us because it just kept burning up from underneath,” he explained.
“I was only a kid - about 16. There was a bloke – a great mate of mine - who was a former prisoner of war. He and I were hanging off a hose trying to put this light out – it was up the top of the bales ... this light glowing every now and again. We’d put water on it and the next thing it would go up again.
“We crawled up the top to see what was going on and it was the local copper with a torch walking around. He was drenched! We sure put him out!”