Twenty years of service at Barra Airport for Joe Gillies

One of Barra Airport’s longest serving staff members is celebrating 20 years’ service.

Joe Gillies was recently honoured by colleagues for his two decades at Barra as both a firefighter and a Flight Information Service Officer (FISO).

Joe hails from Vatersay and spent nine years on Lewis and 12 months on Skye before settling on Barra.

This love of the sea is a constant theme in Joe’s life.  Before joining HIAL, Joe worked as a full-time fisherman on the trawlers, and now one of his main hobbies is diving for scallops and clams (although he prefers not to mention the time he was airlifted to Oban with the bends!).  Joe has also served as a coastguard for over 20 years and also recently qualified as a trauma instructor.

Joe says that he really enjoys the variety and experience of his dual role at Barra Airport.  As well as being close to the rest of the crew at the airport, he loves the social interaction with the airport customers as he talks to and helps out islanders and visitors.

He added: “I really love island life. One of the best things about it is how quickly I can get to the beach for a walk.”

He also enjoys promoting Barra Airport around the island and on TV – with most of the rest of the crew “camera shy” as he puts it, he often finds himself the star of the screen when Barra is featured in many documentaries – and of course it often is.

Barra is world renowned for its beach runways and is popular with film crews keen to highlight the spectacular setting on Scotland’s rugged west coast.

Joe has also taken part in every emergency exercise held at Barra since he started in 1999, plus one at Tiree and one at Stornoway when on detachment!   Although he’s not unique to HIAL in taking part in every annual exercise, he is the only member of staff at Barra to achieve the milestone.

Joe is considering what life will offer when he eventually retires and one option is a return to the sea. His brother works on the boats laying cables out to windfarm developments across Europe and if Joe decides to join him, he will continue to be seen at Barra Airport on a regular basis, but as a passenger rather than a member of this dedicated crew.

Below: Joe receiving his award from Michael Galbraith, Barra Station Manager