Chief Fire Officer Richard Fitzmaurice Sullivan passed away on 25 September 1990 aged 89.
Richard, commonly known in the Isle of Wight County Fire Brigade as 'Dick', was born in Romsey in 1901. In 1917 at 16 years of age he joined the Merchant Navy as a stoker. Following this he joined the Royal Air Force on 4 October 1921. His military records show he was employed as a driver of petrol vehicles service number 349900. His service was predominantly with 25 Squadron at Hawkinge, Uxbridge, Constantinople (during the Chanak Crisis), Upavon and Biggin Hill.
In 1931 he entered the world of firefighting at Southampton. He was promoted to Sub Officer in 1935 and Station Officer in 1941. The 1939 Register captured him listed as Professional Fire Officer living in Brinton's Road, Southampton.On the formation of the National Fire Service in August 1941 he was appointed as Divisional Commander for the Southampton district and subsequently served in the Portsmouth and Aldershot areas. When hostilities ceased he was transferred to the Isle of Wight and served as Column Officer of the IW contingent of the NFS from August 1946.
In 1947 when the Isle of Wight County Council were planning for the imminent formation of a County Fire Brigade, Richard applied for the role but came second at the interviews to A.E. Bowles. However Bowles disagreed with the Council plans for the brigade considering the force too weak to be reliable and resigned on 31 December, three months before the brigade launch date. In New Year 1948 with little time to waste the Council returned to their resident NFS officer in charge and offered him the position which he took.
For many decades due to being the Island's first Chief Fire Officer he was colloquially referred to as the Father of the Isle of Wight Fire Brigade. Although there is ample evidence that he had his hand forced regarding the strength and composition of the initial brigade of 1948 he is credited with enabling the extension of Newport Fire Station and the Headquarters and the construction of new stations in East Cowes, Bembridge, Shanklin, Freshwater and Yarmouth.
Reports in the County Press throughout his tenure indicate that he was a man who threw himself in to every aspect of his brigade's life, attending almost every social event at both brigade and station level including even the children's Christmas parties. His retirement on 30 June 1965 didn't detract from this enthusiasm for his men, their welfare and families as he continued to attend events for many years after.
Despite an evident popularity, through research I have discovered more than one individual's accounts of their time under Sullivan that reflect on his almost continuous smoking and that if the cigarette began to roll from one side of his mouth to the other his temper was being tested and a storm was on the horizon!
He retired to Tannock Brae, 20 Hungerberry Close, Shanklin. The family entry in the County Press that followed his passing indicates a period of poor health as they expressed their gratitude to the doctors and staff at Earl Mountbatten Hospice and the Macmillan Nurses.
Rest in peace Chief Officer Sullivan.