BACK in 1979, Gordon Jackson applied to fill one of 12 vacancies created in his home town of Hawick by the restructured Scottish Ambulance Service.
“I really had no idea what to expect so I told my wife Evelyn I would give it a go for a year and see what happened after that,” recalled Mr Jackson.
Thirty-two years on, he reflected on the “best decision of my life”, although he played down the significance of the MBE he received in the New Year Honours.
The citation from Buckingham Place acknowledges not only his role in his chosen career, but also “services to the community of Hawick”.
And it is the latter plaudit which gives him most satisfaction.
“To be honest, I’d be more than a wee bit embarrassed about being honoured solely as an emergency medical technician because I can assure you there are hundreds of men and women in our service who are every bit as deserving as I am,” said Mr Jackson modestly.
“Three other Hawick guys who started at the same time – Ian Richardson, Davie Fiddes and Ian Keeney – are still with the ambulance service and they, like me, can’t imagine a more varied and satisfying career.
“For me it was very early on, shortly after completing my basic training in Coatbridge, that I knew it was the job for me. It was as if a latent caring spark had been ignited in me.”
Soon afterwards he joined the Hawick Round Table, raising funds for good causes, and in 1989 he was appointed chairman and treasurer of the local Heartstart campaign, which raised more than £23,000 in Hawick alone to provide all ambulances at the Howdenbank station with defibrillators.
Educated at St Mary’s, Trinity and Hawick high schools, Mr Jackson served his time as a joiner with Rob Brydon and worked for a short time with Jock Oliver’s parcel delivery service before joining the SAS which, it is understood, recommended him for the MBE.
He married Evelyn in 1975 and the couple have two daughters, Lynda, 32, and Suzanne, 29.
In 1996, he began his association with the Jumbulance Trust charity which spawned the Border Holiday Group, which he has chaired for the last 12 years.
The group arranges biennial holidays in Europe for severely disabled Borderers, known as VIPs, in a specially-adapted bus – a Jumbulance.
“As group leader, I have a strong team of volunteer helpers from all walks of life to provide all the care and medical attention the eight VIPs need for their holiday,
“The volunteers not only give up their own time, but they also pay their own expenses to give these special guests the experience of a lifetime.
“This year we are going to the beautiful German town of Rheinsberg and staying at a hotel which, like the Jumbulance, has been adapted for wheelchair users.
“To see the joy on the faces of our VIPs makes all the hard work, particularly the fundraising, so worthwhile.”
As a proud Teri, Mr Jackson was determined to overcome his fear of horses by becoming a Mosstrooper, learning to ride at Dryden under the patient and expert tutelage of the late Tutti Arres. He won his Mosspaul badge in 1989 when John Douglas was Cornet and has since been the regular medic on ride-outs at the Common Riding, carrying first aid equipment in a specially-adapted saddle cloth known as a numnah. In 2004, he was appointed president of the Mosstroopers’ Club.
His Common Riding highlight, however, came this year when he and Evelyn were invited by Cornet Greg Easton to be his Acting Father and Mother.
Despite his busy life, Mr Jackson still finds time to be session clerk at Cavers and Kirkton Church, give regular first aid instruction to the Boys Brigade and Girl Guides in Hawick and to take part in the organisation of the annual Vertish Hill Sports.
“Working in the ambulance service has its ups and downs and, like my colleagues, I have seen some traumatic things over the years,” reflected Mr Jackson. “But you have to put down the shutters and move on to the next call. It isn’t always easy, but we do it.
“I’ve delivered six babies during my career and that was really special. Being given the opportunity to help others in your profession is actually a great privilege.”