If you ask Harry Binyon how he’s supported The Fire Fighters Charity over the last 40 years, in his own words, “you name it, we’ve done it.”
The retired County Durham firefighter has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours List and is set to receive a British Empire Medal for his life’s work spent supporting charities, including The Fire Fighters Charity.
“I joined the fire service in 1978 and it was the best job I ever had,” says Harry, who worked at both Darlington and Bishop Auckland fire stations during his 26-year career. “It wasn’t for everyone, and some of the things you saw did affect you. But we helped each other through the tough times, and there was always a comic about to brighten the mood. I just loved the camaraderie, it’s unlike anywhere else. You get a special bond with the lads on your shift – especially my watch, who were as daft as a brush – but even if you went to another station with people you’ve never seen before, you knew that once you get on that engine, you’d have each other’s back. You’re all there for the same reason, and you help each other out to the best of your ability. That desire to help others has never left me, so I’ve never stopped, and I am still going strong.”
Despite retiring in 2004, Harry continues to donate his time, efforts and love towards helping the members of the fire and rescue community who mean so much to him. Over the years, events he has had a hand in organising have raised over £200,000 for The Fire Fighters Charity. He has become a familiar face at stations in his area, attending open days, helping at car washes, holding fundraising events, organising fairs, promoting the textile recycling banks, and even using his 70th birthday as an opportunity to raise more funds for the Charity that means so much to him.
“Touch wood, I’ve not yet needed The Fire Fighters Charity’s help, but I know plenty of people who have,” he says. “There used to be a hesitancy in the North East to approach the Charity for help – us Northerners don’t like to admit we need help – but gradually more and more people have spent time with them, and come back full of praise for how much they’ve been sorted out. That’s what motivates us to keep going, there are plenty of people out there still in need of help, so we have to encourage them to use the Charity and raise the funds to ensure it can be there for them.”
Upon receiving the news he was to receive a medal for his services to charity (as well as his dedication to the Crook and District Athletics Club), Harry thought someone was pulling his leg.
“My wife and I thought it was a joke to begin with, that they’d sent me a prank,” he says. “But then I realised it’s got the Cabinet Office’s official seal on, I just couldn’t believe it. It’s such an honour, but it’s not just for me; it’s for all those who help me out, because we are a team. Plus, helping at so many events gets me out of going shopping, so that’s always good! Although I do sometimes get in trouble with my wife when I can’t go on holiday because I’ve got to get to a fire station. But it’s in my nature, with one thing or another. I just like to help people. That’s who I am.”
Harry is one of two retired firefighters to be recognised for their lifelong service to The Fire Fighters Charity. He is joined on the list by Ludo Macaulay, who has received an MBE.