WHEN they’re handing out medals for lives well spent, Terry Day will certainly be in line for a gold.
He already has his bronze marine medal from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society in recognition of his bravery in rescuing a woman who fell overboard when he was working on the Mersey ferries.
Of his 26 years in the fire service in Spalding – he retired as crew manager at Spalding and Boston in 2006 – he will say little, other than that he has dealt with some nasty incidents, sometimes involving people who are still living locally and who would therefore be distressed by those memories. “I had to deal with it and move on,” is how he closes that line of inquiry.
He has his C grade in GCSE maths, achieved in this summer’s round of exam results and undertaken by Terry in his 60th year to fulfil a long-held ambition. “I come from a big family,” said Terry, who lives with his wife Shirley in Priory Road in Spalding. “There were seven kids in my family and I am the youngest. I knew from the day I started school I was going to leave at 15 and start bringing in money, so I thought, ‘Why should I bother?’. I thought about doing it when I was in the fire brigade, but I was tied to a night-time bleeper so it wasn’t practical, so I decided I’d do it when I retired as well as a course in British Sign Language.”
Terry also has rather a lot of medals for athletics, something he took up after his son, David, joined him in the fire service – in Northamptonshire – and seeing him compete in the World Firefighter Games in Sheffield.
David, who has a sister Rhoda, showed ability in the high jump from the age of 14, and at his best was in the top 15 in the UK boys’ rankings, so was rather disappointed to come fourth at those games. The next year’s event, this time the World Police and Fire Games, was in Quebec and Terry decided he would also compete – in his son’s sport – and came away happy because he had cleared four heights.
At that games, David got silver and in 2007 he achieved gold and became world champion, but he was forced to sit out of the 2008 competition because of injury while Terry earned two silver medals for his age group in high jump and 400m, a success he repeated in 2010 in Andorra.
David is recovered and so will be competing in this year’s games in Sydney, but this time it’s Terry’s turn to rest as he is waiting for investigations` for a blocked artery, so training – which builds up to twice a week close to competitions, but is otherwise more relaxed – has had to stop.
However, it didn’t stop him sharing the nation’s excitement about the summer Olympics, for which he managed to get tickets to watch weightlifting, boxing and beach volleyball. He also volunteered as a Games Maker in Events Services, a task that involved him directing people into the Olympic Stadium and so brought him into contact with thousands of members of the public as well as well-known athletes, such as this year’s gold and bronze medal winners in the triathlon, Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee.
He says: “I was there for two weeks with about three days actually watching events. It was absolutely fantastic. It was hard work, but very rewarding.
“This is the second time my family has had something to do with the Olympics as my parents were extras in the making of the 1980 film Chariots of Fire.”
Apart from that brush with the big screen, Terry’s family have tended to be seafaring, so he was following tradition when he joined the Navy early on. He left after six years to marry and started working on the Mersey ferries, which was when he rescued the woman from drowning.
He has fallen back on that maritime background in retirement, acting as pilot for Spalding Water Taxi two or three times a week during the season and, since March, acting as secretary of the Spalding branch of the Royal Naval Association. Until a year ago, he also volunteered for a charity that allows young people, many of whom are disadvantaged or disabled, to crew ocean-going vessels, accompanied by experienced sailors.
Despite all of this, Terry is not standing in line waiting to receive recognition of any kind. “You do what you do,” he says. “My view in life is this isn’t a trial. This is it. Whatever you are going to do, do it. To be honest, everything I do I do with Shirley’s blessing. Without it, I couldn’t have done any of it.”