The owner of Dylan, a dog I walk in Bishopton has recently been awarded an MBE. Wow!
Taken from the Paisley Daily Express.
DAD-OF-TWO John Donaldson MBE is a man you can turn to in an emergency.
The 59-year-old former council officer would spend his working days taking on responsibility for setting up survivor centres in the wake of major emergencies such as the Stockline factory disaster and the Glasgow Airport terrorist attack.
Now Bishopton man John’s efforts have been rewarded as he is to receive an MBE from The Queen.
But he believes it is the work he did with asylum seekers during his time with Glasgow City Council that has led to royal recognition, rather than his efforts with the local authority’s Emergency Services team.
And John revealed that his first thoughts when he heard he was being included in the New Year’s Honours List were of how his late parents would have felt to see their working class boy landing a date with Her Majesty.
He suffered the heartache of losing his mum Helen 18 months ago after her organs failed, leading to blood poisoning.
And his dad, also called John, died of a heart attack back in 1998.
John said: “It was a strange feeling when I heard about my MBE but I thought to myself ‘If only my mum and dad could see this – their wee boy receiving an honour from The Queen.’ It was quite emotional.
“The whole thing came out of the blue really. I never expected it but, although my work on the emergency services front is the most vivid, with the likes of the Stockline explosion, I think it’s the progress we made with immigration that led to this award.”
John, who headed up the Immigration and Emergency Services team at Glasgow City Council, received the news about his MBE after enjoying a dream holiday with his 57-year-old wife Liz.
He said: “I retired at the end of March and Liz and I decided that we would go on the trip of a lifetime to visit relatives in Australia, followed by a cruise of the Far East.
“On our return, I was told I had a letter with the Home Office mark on it. As I had dealt with the Home Office for years, I didn’t think much of it but, once I had opened the letter, that soon changed.
“I loved my job and I’d like to think that we achieved quite a lot, both in terms of how to deal with emergencies like the Glasgow Airport attack and how immigration is handled now, unlike the past, when we had detention centres and dawn raids on frightened families.
“There’s a saying about the MBE award and that it’s the result of many people’s efforts and I fully agree because nothing that was achieved in my time with the council could have happened without the fantastic team around me.”
John was in Portugal in 2007, enjoying a beer on the beach, when news filtered through to him about the Glasgow Airport terror attack which would see his team’s contingency plans rolled out, with thousands of shocked holidaymakers being shuttled to the SECC in Glasgow.
And, three years earlier, he was on the front line of the aftermath as an explosion at the Stockline plastics factory in Maryhill caused tragedy.
Nine people – including 45-year-old Paisley dad Kenny Murray, 31-year-old Johnstone man Timmy Smith and 52-year-old Peter Ferguson, from Kilbarchan – died when the factory collapsed on May 11, 2004.
The explosion was caused when Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), which had leaked from a 35-year-old corroded metal pipe under the building, was ignited.
All but one of the nine deaths were caused by the subsequent collapse of the four-storey building and a further 33 people were injured.
John, who is dad to 25-year-old daughter Kirsten and 21-year-old son Greig, said: “The Stockline plant explosion is something I’ll never forget.
“We set up a survivor centre in the Maryhill Community Hall and tried to help those who had been in the factory and needed help or information or the families who were desperately trying to find out about their loves ones who worked in the factory.
“Times had changed dramatically from when people involved in major incidents would be sent somewhere safe for a cuppa and that would be that.
“With constant live media attention, the need for more immediate counselling for victims, better communication with mobile phones and better working between all emergency services, we all learned a lot from the Stockline explosion and did everything we could to support those involved in the aftermath.”
On June 30, 2007, John’s colleagues were again called into action to deal with a major incident.
The Glasgow Airport attack was mounted by two bombers who drove a burning Jeep filled with home-made explosives into the main terminal building.
Iraqi doctor Bilal Abdulla, who worked at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, and his accomplice Kafeel Ahmed staged the attack.
Ahmed, 28, was engulfed by flames and died from his injuries a month later, while 29-year-old Abdulla was jailed for at least 32 years at Woolwich Crown Court after he was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.
John said: “We had only just flown out from Glasgow Airport a couple of days beforehand on a holiday to Portugal and I was on the beach with a drink when someone told me to check the news.
“It was quite surreal that day, knowing that the plans we had put in place would be put to the test with the number of people in that airport.
“Initially, it was planned that, if an incident happened in the Paisley area, people would be taken to Braehead Arena but, because there was about 3,500 people at the airport, it was decided that the bigger SECC would be better suited.”
Despite John’s impressive achievements in his emergency services role, he is equally proud of his work in immigration.
He added: “I am very proud of the progress that we made with immigration during my time at the council.
“When I started in the role in 2006, dawn raids for people who no longer had valid paperwork to remain in the country were still taking place. These were quite shocking and no good at all for helping to build relationships between the authorities and asylum seekers.
“We found that we had much more success working with illegal asylum seekers and their families to arrange for them to return home.
“And, for those who had a right to live in Scotland, we worked to integrate them with their community and give them a chance of a better life. We liked to think of them as new Glaswegians.
“When one youth who hardly spoke English when he arrived here was accepted for university, that was a real highlight in my career.”
Since retiring, John has taken up a post as a private consultant with an immigration organisation and has volunteered for a post on the Sighthill Youth Project board.
Not surprisingly, he still hasn’t found time to take up golf.
He joked: “My son asked why I was still doing consultancy work if I was supposed to be retired but I told him I needed to keep myself busy.
“That’s why I’ve agreed to volunteer on the management board of the Sighthill Youth Project – to give something back to the community.
“I promised myself that I’d take up golf, get to the gym more, take some history classes and maybe get the garden in shape but I’ve not managed much of that yet!”