Douglas McGowan honoured with MBE

Douglas McGowan on Waverley in May 2016. Copyright CRSC

Douglas McGowan has been awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list.

The citation said the award was made “for services to the preservation of PS Waverley and charity”.

Douglas played a pivotal role in saving Waverley from the breakers in the early 1970s and setting up the organisation to keep her sailing. He remains a passionate campaigner for the paddler’s operational preservation.

His wife Jean said Douglas felt the award was also recognition “for the small but dedicated team who worked tirelessly to return Waverley to service back in 1974.”

Iain Morgan, CRSC president, said: “Warmest congratulations to Douglas on this richly deserved award. Along with Douglas’s many friends in the shipping world, CRSC is delighted by this public recognition of his longstanding efforts to save the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer.”

Douglas has been a CRSC member for over 50 years, and recently contributed an article to on his memories of sailing to Iona on King George V.

Waverley was built at Pointhouse on the River Clyde in 1947. Her Spring 2017 timetable, which includes trips to Lochranza, Tighnabruaich, Iona and Gairloch, can be found here.


Douglas received his MBE from HRH Prince Charles at an investiture at Buckingham Palace on 24 March 2017. Afterwards he described it as a very special day — an amazing and somewhat surreal experience, being in the company of so many inspirational people also receiving awards. They ranged from individuals who had made a special contribution to medicine, science and education, to several Gold medalists from the Rio Olympics. Strangely, mine was the only award relating to paddle steamers! I also chatted to the actress Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances) who was made a Dame Commander. She had sailed on Waverley round the Isle of Wight some years ago! As far as I am concerned, this award is also for the small but dedicated team who made it all happen, against all the odds, back in 1974. It is also long overdue formal recognition for the ship itself.”

Douglas after the investiture, which was attended by his wife Jean and their two daughters

A ceremonial pose outside Buckingham Palace in London on 24 March 2017

Paddler for a pound: on 8 August 1974 Douglas McGowan (second from left) handed a £1 note to Colonel Sir Patrick Thomas, Chairman of the Scottish Transport Group, to secure Waverley’s future. John Whittle, CalMac’s first Managing Director, stands on the right. On the left is Terry Sylvester, another pivotal member of the team that saved Waverley for operational preservation. The paddler returned to service under the Waverley Steam Navigation Company flag on 22 May 1975.

Waverley at Lochranza on 29 May 2016, with Loch Tarbert heading for Claonaig. Copyright CRSC