Paul Waugh has been an officer of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for 13 years and has received bravery awards.
But his latest bit of heroism has led to a hasty departure from the service. He's had enough.
A 13-year-old schoolgirl, Faye Harrison, had got herself stuck on the cliffs near Saltburn. She and three friends had been walking along the clifftop last January, and were following a footpath winding down the cliff face when they became disorientated and frightened in the dark. Faye decided to try to find a route off the cliff but became trapped, clinging to tufts of grass in the darkness. She says she'd already planned her own funeral by the time help arrived. Fortunately she was seen by a dog walker who dialled 999 on his mobile phone.
Paul and two other coastguards attended, and he climbed down the cliff face, reached the crumbling ledge on which she was stuck, put his arms round her and reassured her for half an hour until an RAF helicopter arrived to winch them both up.
After the rescue he won a "Hero of the Year" award, a Vodafone Life-Saver Award and was nominated for a national "Beyond The Call of Duty Award". He gets Faye's vote, too - she told newspapers she was certain that without him she would not have survived.
But that wasn't quite the way his bosses in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency saw things. After "immense pressure" from managers, who said he should have waited for backup, he has quit the service. He says "The way I have been treated is terrible. I loved that job and I am absolutely gutted that I am leaving. A girl's life was in imminent danger and I did what I had to save her life. But my bosses didn't see it that way - they said I should have waited for support and safety equipment. I never thought I could get into trouble for just doing my job and what I thought was right. I couldn't have lived with myself if I had waited any longer and she had fallen to her death."
You can find a fuller account of the rescue here and here.
Paul is an experienced climber who has rescued people in tricky situations before. He's also an ex-para, a boxer and a runner with 13 London Marathons and 16 Great North Runs to his credit. In the last eighteen years he has used his running to raise money for 70 different charities.
This cuts no ice with the desk-polishers at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, however. A spokesman said "… the MCA is very mindful of health and safety regulations which are in place for very good reasons. Above all our responsibility is to maintain the health and welfare of those who we sometimes ask to go out in difficult and challenging conditions to effect rescues. The MCA is not looking for dead heroes."
The GOS says: No, quite right. Dead members of the public are OK, though.
Rather odd statement to make about responsibility, isn't it? A publicly-funded organisation asks its officers to "go out in difficult and challenging conditions to effect rescues", but claims its main responsibility is for the health and safety of the rescuers, not the people it's supposed to be rescuing?
Shouldn't be surprised, I suppose. Community Police Officers who can't get their feet wet, firemen who aren't allowed to climb ladders …
In fact, all the people in public services whose main priority is not delivering the service they're paid for, but guarding their own backs at the expense of the public and their more conscientious colleagues. In our book, Paul Waugh's a hero - and it's also worth pointing out that he was a volunteer coastguard, not a professional.
Here's another thing. Being a sailor I have pretty good feelings towards the RNLI. After all, they aren't publicly funded, they definitely do go out to sea in all weathers, and who knows, I might need them some day myself. So I thought that as well as slipping them a few squids every so often, I might do something better.
I emailed them suggesting that if they would send me a little advertising banner, I would post it on every page of Grumpy Old Sod with a link to their own website, and encourage the six million people who visit this site every year to donate some money. Pretty good idea, eh?
Sadly, they didn't reply.
So I wrote again, by snail-mail this time. Still no response. So I emailed again. Nothing.
That was a year ago.
Well, s*d it, if they don't want our assistance, they can go without. I'd post a link to Redwings Donkey Sanctuary instead, except they seem to be doing very well without me. Bit puzzled, though - when they found all those dying horses and donkeys recently, they rescued them and took them to "two secret locations" in Norfolk.
Why? Why "secret"? What do they think's going to happen? Hordes of sexual pervert donkey-lovers are going to arrive to "groom" the donkeys?
Or are they just trying to make themselves seem all cutting-edge and important?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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