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Keeping it in the family: The McEwans reflect on seven decades of Fife policing as Garry says farewell to force

Garry McEwan outside Fife Police HQ in Glenrothes.
Garry McEwan outside Fife Police HQ in Glenrothes.

A Fife family which has lived and breathed policing for seven decades is celebrating another major milestone as another one of their number retires from Police Scotland.

Fife’s current Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Derek McEwan, has found himself in the somewhat unusual situation of wishing his older brother Garry, who was Fife’s first ever Divisional Commander, all the best in his retirement after almost 33 years in policing.

Indeed, to say serving Fife’s communities is in the McEwan family’s blood is an understatement though, as their proud dad Ronnie – who himself attained the role of Chief Superintendent before retiring after 30 years in 1990 – has also been able to reflect on his sons’ amazing achievements this week.

Ronnie, Garry and Derek on a momentous day.

Garry leaves after almost 20 years within the CID, where he became head of the CID and supported detectives probing some of the most horrendous crimes, eventually moving on to become Fife Local Policing Commander between 2013 and 2015 and subsequently National Policing Commander for the Criminal Justice Services Division – his final posting.

Times have certainly changed since he was a fresh faced 16-year-old cadet in 1987.

“When I applied 33 years ago I was told I needed to put on two stone within six months or I wouldn’t get in,” he explained.

“I bet if I was to apply now they would tell me to lose a couple of stone and then some…

“Despite my dad being a high-ranking police officer, and his brother Dave a police officer in the Met, he never encouraged or discouraged me or my brothers from applying.

“In fact, when I got the offer of being a police cadet, the exact same day I also got offered a job as a trainee pharmacy support dispenser with a local chemist,

“I think that was the only time my mum and dad said: ‘I think you should go for the police.’

“I am so glad they did as the trainee dispenser job paid £30 a month more, circa £230 a month, and I was seriously tempted.

“Even when in the police my dad never offered advice but had a canny knack of being there just when I needed some.

“Derek is a bit like that, albeit he likes to offer more advice that he Is prepared to accept.

“That’s what little brothers do I guess.”

Garry McEwan.

A career highlight happened when he was just 17, when Kirkcaldy became the focus of a major investigation when exiled Croat leader Nikola Stedul was shot numerous times whilst walking his dog.

“The enquiry was led by experienced officers but with the culprit unknown they needed a police presence outside the family home in case the gunman came back,” he recalled.

“My role was to sit outside the house in a police car as a deterrent.

“So at 17, I couldn’t drive, had no personal protective equipment and was told to get on the police radio and shout for help if the shooter returned.

Nikola Stedul, who was the subject of an assassination attempt in Kirkcaldy. It was an incident Garry McEwan would never forget.

“After spending three 12 hour shifts ‘protecting the family’, I was genuinely worried that I may not see my 18th birthday and was certainly relieved to hear the man responsible had be caught down south at an airport I think.

“Fortunately health and safety and risk assessments have improved 100-fold since then.”

Garry’s happy to let his son Danny and daughter Tia find their own career path, but admitted his overwhelming sense upon retirement is pride in the “truly remarkable” staff and officers he has worked alongside.

“Policing Is most definitely a public service and without those hardworking and dedicated staff the job is nothing and the public would not get the service they truly deserve,” he added.

Daughter Tia, 18, her mum Joanne and son Danny McEwan, 17.

Derek, whose wife Kelly leads the Rape Investigation Unit in Police Scotland as a Detective Inspector, admitted his brother’s experiences led him to follow in his footsteps, joining as a cadet in 1993.

“Police officers nowadays have a far harder job than I had when I was a young cop,” he said.

“They are not only police officers preventing and investigating crime, but are sometimes the only people left to try and help someone in crisis.

Chief Supt Derek McEwan, Police Scotland Fife Division Headquarters.

“They are now under so much scrutiny but are still able to provide an exceptionally professional service to the public.

“I’m very proud of both my father and brother reaching their retirement.

“Many sadly don’t.”

For his part, Ronnie too reflects fondly on his career and his boys, and believes their late mum Morag will be looking down on them with pride.

“My eldest Paul lives in America, Garry and Derek live locally and have done really well in the service,” he concluded.

“I am truly proud of all three of them and their mum who passed away many years ago from cancer in 1989 would be likewise.”