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Berwickshire pair on a very different beat

SBBN-26-06-14 Neil Paton and Zander Gibson, both from Berwickshire, have risen to the top of London's Southwark Police Force

SBBN-26-06-14 Neil Paton and Zander Gibson, both from Berwickshire, have risen to the top of London's Southwark Police Force

The chances of two men from Berwickshire villages nine miles apart rising to the top of a London borough’s police force must be pretty remote.

But that is exactly what has happened.

Three months ago, Chief Superintendent Zander Gibson, from St Abbs, became Borough Commander for Southwark.

There he found that his second-in-command, Superintendent of Operations Neil Paton, was from Chirnside.

“We got chatting, as you do,” said Neil, “and we realised that we had several friends in common, and knew a lot of the same people.

“It was a bit like playing six degrees of separation. I’d always described myself as just being from south east Scotland, but it was obvious from his accent where he was from. He’s kept it a bit more than me!”

Zander took note of that: “We have an away day and social soon, so I’ll make sure everybody knows about that,” he laughed, “how I’ve kept it and he’s changed.”

Both men make frequent trips north to visit friends and family, and, in Zander’s case, to enjoy a traditional fish supper, which apparently cannot be replicated in London.

Neil left the Borders for London, although he nearly went into another field entirely: “I was a tax assistant in Berwick for six months, and the day they said they were really pleased with how it was going, and they wanted to put me through the exams, that day I had the letter from the police. I guess the bright lights were just too appealing!”

Zander, meanwhile, ditched the maritime life for the force.

“I was a trawlerman - probably one of the worst ever,” he recalled. “It was a rite of passage thing, but I spent most of my time hanging over the side being sick, and I couldn’t tie a knot.”

Southwark is one of the most diverse London Boroughs, explains Zander: “It has one of the largest estates in Europe, and a huge amount of housing stock, as well as things like Tate Modern and Tower Bridge within it.”

Neil adds: “While I’m not sure how many of the 32,000 police officers in London are from Berwickshire, I’d guess not too many, so you can imagine our surprise when we ended up working at the same place.”

 

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