William 'Bill' Johnson and Albert Newton celebrate 70 years at Bilpin Rural Fire Service

THERE wasn't a dry eye in the house when long-serving Bilpin Rural Fire Service members Albert Newton and William 'Bill' Johnson celebrated 70 years each of service, at a ceremony run by the brigade on Saturday, June 20.

The men - locals to the area - each received their 70-year service medal, Life Membership certificate and plaque, plus a Volunteer Service Certificate presented by Macquarie MP Susan Templeman on behalf of Parliament, during the ceremony.

Ms Templeman joined Bilpin RFS members and the Newton and Johnson families, along with NSW RFS Chief Superintendent Simon Davis, Superintendent Karen Hodges, Inspector Tim Seary, Group Officer West Sector Ken Pullen, and Hawkesbury Mayor Barry Calvert, to celebrate the two 'Bilpin legends'.

Kelly Haines, from the Bilpin RFS Brigade Management Team, said community members lined the road with signs and balloons as the celebrated men did a lap of honour.

Albert Newton first joined Bilpin RFS on January 1, 1950. He was 15 years old.

According to a speech at the ceremony delivered by Mr Newton along with Mary Newton, there were no tankers in those days, "only 28 steel nap sacks".

"Noel Powell was Captain and Albert's firefighting buddies were Old Bill, Brian and Neville Hungerford," the duo recalled.

"In 1957 the Brigade received a Blitz Tanker. Members would use wet corn bags and green branches to fight fires.

"In 1968 Bilpin had a very big fire and it was Old Bill's job to tell neighbours to get ready to evacuate. The fire stopped at Mary and Albert's wood heap.

"In 1980 Albert saved a home in Mt Lagoon by taking position as driver of the tanker when the driver panicked. Very proud memory."

Mr Newton was an Equipment Officer from May 2000 to May 2008, and a Deputy Captain from 2002 to 2003.

He received a 35 years Long Service Medal in 1995, and now adds a 70 years Long Service Medal to his collection.

William 'Bill' Johnson moved to Bilpin in 1943. He joined the local fire brigade - Bilpin RFS - on January 1, 1946, at the age of 16.

There was no truck or equipment and the country was in the middle of WWII. When there was a fire the local post mistress would phone, "calling on all and any who could help", according to Judy Collier, who spoke at the awards ceremony.

Firefighting equipment in those days was "a wet bag, a green branch, and a box of matches", and brigade members wore their "work clothes", Ms Collier said.

Mr Johnson was a Deputy Captain from June 2002 to June 2014.

He received his 25 years and 35 years Long Service Medals in 1995, and now adds a 70 years Long Service Medal to his collection.

"Bill has worked tirelessly fighting fires and training recruits throughout the decades," said Ms Collier.

"Along with Albert they missed many Christmas dinners and family celebrations.

"Many of the Johnson and Newton families have gone on to join the service, following in the footsteps of these two amazing men."


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