Town mourns loss of ‘Fire Engine Man’ George Dunlop who worked tirelessly in the community with historic Vivien

George Dunlop worked tirelessly with historic Vivien the fire engine in the Wisbech community - he is pictured here on Armed Forces Day.
George Dunlop worked tirelessly with historic Vivien the fire engine in the Wisbech community - he is pictured here on Armed Forces Day.

Tributes have been paid to George Dunlop known to many in Wisbech as the ‘Fire Engine Man’ who has died after a short battle with a rare form of cancer.

George, who would have celebrated his 78th birthday on Monday (9), was surrounded by his family: wife Gill, their two children Heather and Fraser and his son-in-law, Mark, when he passed away at his Wisbech home on Easter Bank Holiday Monday.

George Dunlop always wore the historic uniform when he accompanied Vivien at community events.

George Dunlop always wore the historic uniform when he accompanied Vivien at community events.

He was best known for his work with the Vivien Fire Engine Trust, which he and the family set up after they purchased the historic fire engine, which his father James used to drive in the 1940s and 50s.

But George, who was only diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer last week, was also chairman of Wisbech Talking Newspaper for the Blind for many years and was known at Wisbech Town Council as the ‘mince pie man’ as he would canvas the local supermarkets for mince pie donations for the Christmas Market.

He was born in Ruby Street, Wisbech - the now the site of the pathology lab in North Cambs Hospital - the youngest of James (Jock) and Evelyn Dunlop’s four children, he had two elder brothers Gordon and Raymond and a older sister Margaret. The family later lived in Trafalgar Row.

Jock Dunlop died when George was a teenager and the Firefighters Benevolent Fund stepped into help the family, something for which George was forever grateful and is why he also raised £1,000s for the charity over the years.

George Dunlop with Vivien fire engine at the Rose Fair parade.

George Dunlop with Vivien fire engine at the Rose Fair parade.

Gill said: “He never forgot the help the benevolent fund gave his mum and the family and he always felt he wanted to repay that support.”

Poor eyesight meant George was unable to fulfil his ambition of becoming a fireman but his connection to the service was strong both through Vivien and as president of the Wisbech Police and Fire Sports and Social Club - a role he held for 24 years until the club closed in 2007.

He did a lot of work in the community and Susanah Farmer, deputy town clerk, said: “If there was an event in the town then George would always be there asking what he could do to help. We called him the ‘mince pie man’ because he used to go and collect mince pies from all the supermarkets and hand them out at the Christmas Market. If the event was something that Vivien could be involved in then he was delighted to bring her along, but if it wasn’t he would still be happy to help.”

Although George was born and bred in Wisbech he was very proud of his Scottish ancestry and he wore a kilt when he married Gill, who he met doing his community work, 26 years ago, and he also wore it last year when Heather married.

One of George’s proudest moments was being invited to attend a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in 2015 after being nominated by Richard Barnwell for his services to the community.

“I think other than our wedding day, and our children that was one of his proudest days,” said Gill.

He was awarded a Certificate of Excellence by Cambridgeshire’s Chief Fire Officer in 2012 for his dedicated work for the fire service.

During the last week of his life George was inundated with visitors and Gill said: “There was a constant stream of people who wanted to come and see him, we would have them coming in the front door as some were going out the back.

“Communication was hard towards the end, but on Saturday the crew from Wisbech Fire Station asked if they could visit him. They turned up and we opened the front door and they put on the blues and twos and George opened his eyes for the first time in about three days. His face lit up, it was something special to see. A couple of the crew came in and knelt by the bed to talk to him and he was nodding his head at what they were saying - I think his face said it all.”

George, who spent years researching and writing a books about the history of Wisbech Fire Service, was organised to the last writing a press release for his family to put out and organising his funeral, which will involve his beloved Vivien when it’s held at St Augustine’s Church on April 26 at 1.45pm, followed by cremation at Peterborough Crematorium at 3.30pm.

Gill added: “I know people knock Wisbech, but George was proud to be Wisbech born and bred. He loved the town and was determined to be at home when he passed away. It wasn’t easy, but the district nurses were a fantastic support, and it meant a lot to George and to us as a family that he was able to be at home when he went.”