Three decades at the helm for St Andrews Coastguard

Charlie Ball, head of Coastal Operations at HM Coastguard presented Martin Barkla with Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on Tuesday, June 14 for 30 years service with St Andrews Coastguard.
Charlie Ball, head of Coastal Operations at HM Coastguard presented Martin Barkla with Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on Tuesday, June 14 for 30 years service with St Andrews Coastguard.

The familiar buzz of Martin Barkla’s pager has been a continuous hum for 30 years now and his dedication to St Andrews Coastguard has been marked with a commendation.

Presented with a clasp for Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on Tuesday, June 14 the St Andrews Coastguard Rescue Officer (CRO) was delighted to be honoured with award which signifies another 10 years service on top of the 20 years service for which Martin has previously received a Long Service Medal.

Charlie Ball, head of Coastal Operations at HM Coastguard presented Martin Barkla with Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on Tuesday, June 14 for 30 years service with St Andrews Coastguard.

Charlie Ball, head of Coastal Operations at HM Coastguard presented Martin Barkla with Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on Tuesday, June 14 for 30 years service with St Andrews Coastguard.

Cameron Rae, acting station manager said: “30 years service as a voluntary CRO is, as I am sure you can imagine, not a common occurrence and something to be appropriately recognised, congratulated and thanked for.”

The clasp was presented by Charlie Ball, head of Coastal Operations at the East Sands St Andrews Coastguard Station.

Martin has responded to the hundreds of calls for help since he first joined the team.

One that sticks out in his memory is that of a Russian freighter which washed up on the Kinkell Braes in 1987.

“It was quite something to behold,” explained Martin. “It was anchored in the bay when one of the links failed. We were up at 3am to be prepared but she was tough enough. It was quite a sight!”

With a father who was keen on boats, Martin was brought up with an understanding of how they worked and was able to “speak the same language” standing him in good stead for a long service.

He joined the team on a whim after receiving a phonecall from a volunteer who suggested he tried it out.

“I was contacted by the auxiliary in charge at the time. We had a telephone conversation and he invited me to come along.

“One feels one is doing something useful and I owed something to society, I enjoyed doing what I did and the rest is history.”

Born in St Andrews Cottage hospital, Martin has spent the majority of his life in the town. And before his retirement he worked in the library at St Andrews University, who he said were very understanding employers when it came to responding to calls.

He admitted that with his advancing years there is some aspects of the call outs he can no longer do: “I’m too old for things like mud work now. But mud rescues also involve a lot of hosing down – which I can do.”

He said one of the draws of working for the Coastguard is feeling part of a group. “We all support each other. There are occasions when someone’s life is literally in one’s hands. You are on the ropes above and you can’t make mistakes – their life is literally in your hands. A great feeling of trust.” Asked what the recipie for a successfully 30 years service, Martin said simply “a good sense of humour” was essential.