Graham McGuigan
Graham McGuigan

Firefighters have paid tribute to a colleague described as “the glue that kept them together.”

Graham McGuigan, a married father-of-three, died following an illness at the age of 44.

Affectionately known as Gra, he was with Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service for 19 years, serving all of that time with Blue Watch at Newark Fire Station.

“If everything were to go wrong in a fire, Gra would be the one who was right there beside you as you took your last breath,” said Firefighter Kev Parker, of Blue Watch.

“It is very difficult to walk past his peg with his kit on it and know he will not be pulling it on again.

“He always took the time to find out what was going on in your life.

“Never have I heard anyone say a bad word about him, because there were no bad words to be said.”

Watch manager Andy Turner said: “Graham was always positive.

“I don’t ever remember him being down about anything. He was unique.

“He was the practical joker of the watch.

“He made life interesting, but there was a switch in his head that tripped when we were out on a call.

“He was professional, reliable and dependable ­— all the things a watch manager wants.

“I always felt reassured with Graham by my side. He was part of the fabric of the watch.

“We have great chemistry, but he was the glue that kept us together.”

'We miss him hugely'

A crowdfunding page set up by the Fire Brigades Union in Nottinghamshire to ease the burden of Christmas for Graham’s wife, Lesley, and their three sons, had a target of £1,000, but more than double that has been pledged by colleagues, friends and even people who never met him.

Firefighter Jon Spencer has been with Blue Watch as long as Graham.

“He knew the watch inside out. He knew what the watch meant and it meant a lot to him,” he said.

“You build strong bonds and we miss him hugely.

“We look at the crowdfunding page and it proves that what we think about him, everyone else does as well.”

Blue Watch will act as pall bearers and form a guard of honour at a full fire service funeral at Newark Parish Church a week today.

The funeral cortege will drive past the town’s Boundary Road fire station as the on-duty crew stands to attention.

Firefighter Gemma Whelbourn said: “The fire service is a massive family and when something like this happens we have each other.

“Lesley and the boys are part of the fire service family and it will always be there for them.”

'A proud and loyal firefighter'

Firefighter Scott Hutchinson said: “He was a role model to us younger firefighters.

“He was like a brother or father-figure ­— very friendly and supportive.

“Nothing fazed him. I never saw him panic. He always took everything in his stride.”

Other Blue Watch members are crew managers Simon Turley and Daz Charters and firefighters Chris Tate, Gareth Moore, Greg Ford and Daz Badley.

Nottinghamshire’s Chief Fire Officer, John Buckley, said support continued for Graham’s family and colleagues.

“Graham was a proud and loyal firefighter and to have lost him, one of our own, is absolutely tragic,” he said.

Graham’s funeral a week today is at 10.45am. Everyone is welcome at Newark Parish Church. A wake at The Ram on Castlegate will follow cremation at Ollerton.

Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to The Fire Fighters Charity, the Children’s Bereavement Centre in Newark and Kidney Research UK, through funeral directors E. Gill and Sons.