Lorna Evans recently celebrated a milestone of public service with the police. Reporter Hilary Scott found out how it all began…
“I dinnae ken why you want to go and work there, you’ll no like it,” said Lorna’s mum when she decided to join the police.
That was four decades ago, when mill worker Lorna decided the life of crime was for her – in a good way.
But how did she go from working in a mill to joining the Force?
“I saw the advert for the job in the Peeblesshire News and it sounded interesting,” said Lorna.
“I had done secretarial studies at school, and while working at Robert Noble’s, March Street Mills, had moved from the Pattern Room to work on the Telex machine, which kept up my typing skills.”
As fate would have it, Lorna applied to the advert and secured the job as a clerical assistant at Peebles Police Station, beginning her first day on February 16, 1981.
Down memory lane
I asked what it was like back then before technology took over.
“We used manual typewriters and all the incidents were recorded in a log book,” said Lorna. “We answered all the calls, apart from 999 calls, which went to the Control Room at Hawick.”
Lorna then progressed on to the role of Station Assistant, and today she works as a Public Enquiry and Support Assistant – PESA.
She explained: “We assist the public at the front counter with the many varied enquiries that they may have and are often the first contact they have with Police Scotland.
“We assist officers, making sure that the station is stocked with items that are needed for them to respond to incidents.”
In 1988, Lorna joined the Special Constabulary and served until 1991.
The perks, I learn, were just too good to pass up!
I thought I’d misheard Lorna when she told me about her voluntary role, saying that she got an allowance for tights.
“Do you mean working nights?” I ask.
“No – tights,” she laughed.
However, she later tells me the tights were free – it was an allowance for shoes that were the lucrative offer… just not quite the style Lorna had in mind.
As a Special Constable, Lorna would work in the evenings or at events such as Peebles 7s and the Beltane Festival.
All of her voluntary policing was about to pay off – or so Lorna thought.
“I offered to assist when Rangers played at Galashiels. As a Rangers fan this was a dream come true, but I was stuck on a traffic point miles from the ground!”
No day as been the same since joining the service. Lorna has undertaken driving duties at two exercises with Lothian and Borders Police, and been a custody driver at T in The Park with Police Scotland at Strathallan.
Lorna’s heart-warming compassion and empathy shone through in July 2001, when a male from Germany attended at the police station advising that he had no access to cash to get him back to Edinburgh.
“We had a procedure for this type of thing but it unfortunately wouldn’t work in this case so I gave him my own money,” she said.
“My colleagues all laughed and said I would never see it again, but about three weeks later a letter arrived from Dortmund in Germany containing a thank you letter and my money.”
‘A remarkable person’
Lorna’s service with the police is inspiring, but so is her commitment to the community she lives in, through her many voluntary roles in Peebles Pipe Band, the Beltane Committee, Peebles Women’s Rural Institute, the Cubs, Beavers, Girl Guides, Priorsford PTA, Cancer Research and Peebles Highland Games.
Paying tribute to Lorna, Local Area Commander Vinnie Fisher told us: “Lorna’s lifelong devotion to public service is remarkable.
“While I congratulate and thank Lorna for her 40 years of police service, her contribution to the communities in and around Peebles extends far beyond her roles as Special Constable and Public Enquiry and Support Assistant.
“She has always given her all, and has always had the best interests of her home town and its people at heart.
“She is a remarkable person, who has expressed no desire to ‘let up’, and I hope Lorna will continue to serve her community for years to come.”
After toasting 40 years of service, I asked Lorna about her future plans.
“I hope to continue in my current role for a few more years yet. I love that I never know who is coming through the front door and what their story might be.
“To my colleagues past and present, thanks for keeping me going for 40 years.”
The saying ‘mother knows best’ proved not to be true in Lorna’s case.
She’s loved her job for 40 years and says: “I’m so glad she was wrong on this occasion!”