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Highland Heroes 2024: Emergency services/armed forces shortlist revealed – VOTE NOW!


By Leah Williamson

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Here is the shortlist for the emergency services/armed forces hero...

PC Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips
Paul Phillips

Instinct to send his family to safety and tackle an armed man has pushed an Aviemore policeman back into the limelight - and onto the shortlist for a Highland Heroes Emergency Services of the Year award.

Police constable Paul Phillips had finished his shift and was on his way home when his wife (who was driving) observed a man in the middle of the carriageway brandishing a pole at passing motorists.

What wasn’t immediately obvious was that the man was also carrying a large kitchen knife.

Paul said: “My training kicked in. He was clearly distressed and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to him, nor did I want him to harm anyone else.

“I persuaded him to throw away the pole and sit and talk to me. The whole episode lasted 11 minutes and those 11 minutes felt like forever! We had walked a mile before I heard sirens and knew that backup was on its way.”

Paul concluded: “I have been fortunate to receive recognition for my actions from the Scottish Police Federation, to be nominated again is very humbling.“

Kyle RNLI

RNLI Kyle of Lochalsh
RNLI Kyle of Lochalsh

The Kyle of Lochalsh lifeboat crew has been shortlisted to win the Highland Heroes Emergency Services of the Year award for its ambitious rescue of a pensioner trapped on a cliff ledge in one of the most inaccessible places in the Highlands, Kinloch Hourn.

The 72-year-old experienced walker had been trapped on the ledge, without mobile phone signal, for more than 24 hours.

Glenelg Mountain Rescue team and the Kyle lifeboat Spirit of Fred Olsen were called out to assist.

Andy MacDonald, one of the Helms of Kyle RNLI Lifeboat said: “It’s a real privilege for the crew to be recognised in this way. Our volunteer crew consists of people from all walks of life who come together as a close knit team when we get a ‘shout’.

“In this case, the stranded walker was lucky because a crew is usually despatched for up to three hours before we’re required to hand over to a new team, but because of the remote location of where he was and the length of time he’d been stuck there, the crew decided to see it through without a changeover.”

Andy concluded: “It’s always such a relief to reach and rescue someone before their health or situation becomes worse. Seeing the relief and gratitude on the faces of the casualty’s family was quite special.”

Dave Thompson

Dave Thompson
Dave Thompson

The bravery and empathy for a man contemplating suicide has led to Golspie Police Constable Dave Thompson being shortlisted for a Highland Heroes Emergency Services of the Year award.

In August 2021, he received a call from the police control room about a man who was believed to be suicidal and carrying weapons.The man was driving through Golspie and heading north.

Dave followed him to a remote area outside of Thurso where the man got out of the car with his loaded weapon, then rested his chin on the barrel of his shotgun.

Dave chatted to him and quickly found common ground in their farming background. More than 30 minutes later, when police back-up arrived, the man was tasered and referred on for mental health support.

Dave’s nomination said: “If it wasn’t for Dave’s skills, bravery and downright selflessness the outcome may have been very different.”

Dave said: “I’m not sure that I really deserve any award but I’m honoured that other people do. I see it as my job to help people; this man was in crisis and I’m pleased for his sake and for that of his friends and family that I could support him in that moment.”

Dave was also awarded a Chief Constable’s Bravery and Excellence Award in 2022.

Michael O’Neill

Michael O'Neill (centre).
Michael O'Neill (centre).

First responder, Michael O’Neill, has been praised for going above and beyond the call of duty to help those in need.

Having established Alness and Evanton First Responders seven years ago, Michael O’Neill has watched his Ross-shire-wide group of first responders and volunteers evolve into an essential community resource. Now called Emergency Community Rescue, the team also responds to emergencies while off duty, and assists search and rescue operations.

A nomination said: “Over the last seven years, he has saved countless people’s lives and a few have even phoned him up personally to thank him.

“He also helps out the local midwives in taking their patients to and from Raigmore Hospital. He’s always on call!”

Michael, who is also nominated for the volunteer award, said: “I didn’t set it up for an award, I set it up because I want my community to feel safe. There’s people still walking around because of us. Whatever I do in the rest of my life, this will always be my proudest thing.”

Openreach Scotland is sponsoring the emergency services/armed forces hero award.

Robert Thorburn, partnership director for Openreach Scotland, said: “We love being part of the Highland Hero awards. It’s such a positive, uplifting night celebrating the special people who really make a difference in the Highlands.

“Our category recognises the vital contribution of emergency services and armed forces in a vast, geographically challenging region where life or death may depend on these brave and selfless responders. It’s humbling to hear of the heroic ways they support local people and communities.

“It’s been another busy year for Openreach in the Highlands, with our Ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network continuing to expand. Our networks keep people connected and help make it possible for everyone to vote for their Highland Heroes online!

“We’re really looking forward to celebrating the Highlands’ unsung heroes and can’t wait to hear about all the nominees. If you know someone who’s gone the extra mile, this is your chance to make sure they get the recognition they deserve."

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