Marsh Volunteer Award for Historic Vessel Conservation

This Award is run in partnership with National Historic Ships UK, the official voice for historic vessels in the United Kingdom.

This Award recognises those who have made a valuable contribution to the conservation, or operation of historic vessels in the UK and is an opportunity to recognise and thank outstanding volunteers.

Nominations can be made via the National Historic Ships website and will be judged by a panel of experts in the field and the MCT.


Colin Barton, Excelsior 2023

Colin has been volunteering on Excelsior for 2 years and began helping the team with a range of useful maintenance jobs. During the summer, he took part in his first tentative sailing trips, quickly gaining a reputation as a core deckhand to be relied upon and an excellent person to have aboard when taking school groups out to sea. Colin’s experience then gave him insight into the ship’s difficult and challenging electrical system, and he took it upon himself to create the ship’s biggest electronics overhaul project. Colin stripped out 30 years of redundant wiring and checked every core system of the boat. He tidied up the whole organisation of the navigation station, making it more manageable for the crew. Colin replaced many necessary pieces of electrical equipment to enhance the safety of the ship and has bought the ship’s system closer to the modern age, which will allow for a new and ambitious sailing programme. Colin implemented his work with joy and enthusiasm and also trained less experienced crew and volunteers along the way. Following this, he rejoined the crew as a deckhand, monitoring and helping out with his new installations.

Previous Winners

Ian Nicholson, the Swan

Ian has been involved with the Swan through the Swan Trust since 1999. He is the person in charge of all aspects of maintenance, repair and design of every aspect of mechanical and electrical engineering in the Swan’s extensive list of essential equipment. He was captivated by a trip onboard the vessel and began to look for a way to contribute to the cause. Ian is certified to allow for extensive voyaging with young people, school parties, charter groups and many Tall Ships events. The Trust relies on Ian’s skills and judgement, maintaining all equipment to the required level of safety and dependability. He is friendly and helpful, with life-long wide-ranging experiences to draw from, and he shares his expertise with others with patience and encouragement

Tim Jepson

Tim has been a volunteer with the Thames Sailing Barge Trust since 1975 and, over the last 10 years, has specifically looked after the maintenance of the vessel Centaur, which was built in 1895. He spends most of his time keeping Centaur in good shape, throughout all seasons, and carries out much of his work on his own or leading a team of volunteers. During the pandemic, Tim has continued his volunteering on Centaur, replacing rotten deck timbers and replacing them with more sustainable timbers which will last for years to come. He has also managed the fitting of a new diesel tank for the vessel’s engine, as well as making sure she always looks her best. After the first lockdown, Tim had to arrange to re-rig Centaur and he carried out a long list of maintenance tasks, often on his own or with just a small team of helpers under his guidance. Centaur is a testament to Tim’s many years of hard work in that at 126 years of age she is still sailing and taking members of the public on memorable sailing trips. 

Charlotte Hole, The Cirdan Sailing Trust

Charlotte has been a member of Cirdan’s crew for the last 2 and a half years, but was unfortunately made redundant from her seasonal contract in July, after a period of furlough. During furlough, Charlotte lived aboard Cirdan’s converted Baltic trader Queen Galadriel and while government rules meant she couldn’t do any work for Cirdan during this time, Charlotte took it upon herself to look after her accommodation by sanding and painting areas that she knew needed attention. With the lockdown period stretching on, she also decided to fill some of her time by making new matching sailing bags for Duet, a 22m long vessel which was built in 1912 and has been on permanent loan to Cirdan for the last 25 years. 

Once she was made redundant, Charlotte went back to her family but her dedication to Cirdan didn’t end and she offered to make some much-needed sail and hatch covers for Duet. These will not only improve the appearance of the vessel but will also help preserve her aging wood and equipment. She has since filled her parent’s home with metres of canvas to produce covers for the main sail, mizzen sail, butterfly hatch, forward hatch, gas locker, spar and windlass. Cirdan had received quotes in excess of £3,000 for the work, but having measured and calculated the material needed, Charlotte quoted £400 for the work.  

Charlotte has been a volunteer for the Rhona Trust for many years in addition to her work with Cirdan. She is totally dedicated to sail training and learning more about historic vessels. Cirdan are hoping to be able to reemploy her, but in the meantime would like to thank Charlotte for her commitment since her redundancy which has saved them over £2,000 and is of enormous support in this difficult time. 


Watch the Awards Presentation here:

Patrick Fox and Malcolm Bremner

Patrick Fox

Patrick Fox has been a volunteer on the Edith May since 2015. He gets stuck in to every task with relish, including painting, re-rigging, and even learning to help sail the vessel. When the skipper suffered a heart attack in Spring 2017, Pat took on more responsibility and has now become the regular mate on board the Edith May. He has not only learnt a great deal in the last few years, having had no previous experience of sailing, but he actively seeks out other volunteers to get involved with the vessel.

Malcolm Bremner

Malcolm Bremner has been a volunteer on board the Isabella Fortuna since the Wick Society acquired the vessel in 1997. He has led the team of volunteers responsible for the vessel’s restoration and ongoing essential maintenance work ever since. Malcolm has applied traditional skills he has learnt throughout his seafaring career to his volunteering role and shares his knowledge with the rest of his volunteer team. He interacts with the local community and his dedication to the Isabella Fortuna often goes above and beyond what is expected from him in his role.

Brian Small

Brian spent his working life in the Royal Navy dockyard in Portsmouth as a boilermaker and is also trained in modelmaking, technical drawing and signwriting. He has always had an interest in naval history and heritage and was part of the dockyard Historical Society and was involved in rescuing a great deal of heritage that would otherwise have been scrapped – including HMS Gannet which is now fully restored at Chatham Historic Dockyard.

Brian has been a volunteer on HMS Medusa, the ship used as navigational leader for Omaha beach on 6th June 1944, for 32 years, making him the ship’s longest serving volunteer. He has done a great deal of detailed work on board the ship, most notably four replica Vickers guns which were such a good likeness that the police requested a de-commissioning certificate for them! He does all the detailed paintwork on board the ship and, despite suffering from seasickness, has been out to sea on almost every journey.

Alongside his technical expertise, Brian is a true gentleman, good humoured and brilliant with visitors to the ship, entertaining them with a fund of stories about the vessel. He coordinated the maintenance work of volunteers and is as integral a part of the Medusa crew family as the ship is a part of his life.

Bob Irvine

Bob began volunteering on the HMS Unicorn in 1985 and have been involved in all areas of running the vessel, including maintenance, conservation, guided tours and children’s fun days. He is known as ‘Pirate Bob’ to visitors and is often recognised in his day to day life thanks to his regular appearances in local news articles about the ship.

Bob is infamous for his guided tours of the ship, his knowledge and passion shines through while he is showing visitors around the vessel and shows no signs of slowing down yet, even after 30 years as a volunteer! He also assists with key maintenance work on the ship which is essential to her conservation. In the eighties, Bob was a regular member of the Tuesday night cleaning club and he has been instrumental to the continuous protective care of the fabric of the vessel.

‘Pirate Bob’ is an extremely valuable member of the team at HMS Unicorn and the ship would not be the same without him.


Fred Attwood and Jill Sims

Fred Attwood

Fred is a lead volunteer with the Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust and has a number of roles including project manager, shipwright, banksman, organiser and all round enthuser. He is an inspiration to other volunteers and uses his natural leadership skills to get the most out of his team. His enthusiasm shines through and he is a great mentor to the new members of the team and junior volunteers. Fred works on site two days a week and spends a lot of time at home producing guides for each of the projects and keeps photographic records of all the work done by the volunteers, many of which feature in his monthly newsletter.

Jill Sim
Jill is a schoolteacher and has worked as a volunteer guide on the RRS Discovery for 6 years, devoting her Sundays to sharing her passion for the ship and its expeditions with visitors of all ages and backgrounds. She has written and published a children’s book, ‘Shiver Me Timbers!’, about Discovery’s first expedition in 1901. She has used her extensive teaching experience and her knowledge if the ship to create an imaginative and entertaining book which had proved popular with families and teachers alike. Jill organised a number of workshops for Rosebank Primary School students to find out more about the Discovery, which has resulted in them becoming the first ever Discovery ‘School in Residence’ – indeed the first ever school in the country to be linked directly to an historic vessel.

Richard Meehan

Richard volunteers aboard the Steam Tug TID 164. The tug was built in 1945 to work in docks and ports around the world and is only one of four such tugs that still have their original steam engine. TID 164 is currently under restoration in Chatham.

Richard has focused on the restoration of the tug’s engine and boiler, giving many hours of his time to the task. He has serviced all the pumps, cleared the pump lines and has trained other volunteers to carry out similar work. Richard has developed plans for a new smoke box, and has worked to restore parts of the engine which were facing corrosion.

TID 164 will soon be back in operation and this would not be possible without Richard’s incredible hard work. He is a highly valuable member of the team aboard the tug and a deserving winner of the Award.

Chris Leah

Chris set up the Wooden Canal Craft Trust in 1987 (becoming the Wooden Canal Boat Society in 1997), to maintain and restore two boats, Forget Me Not and Lilith. The organisation now has a strong reputation and has acquired four more historically valuable boats.

Chris has been a significant fundraiser for the Society, securing support from Tameside council which provided the organisation with use of a boat-yard. He regularly takes boats out into the local community near the Ashton Canal, collecting donations and giving people the opportunity to learn more about the boats. Volunteers have reported that spending time on the boats has helped to alleviate anxiety or depression and Chris used this as inspiration to rebuild Hazel as a wellbeing boat for people to with mental health problems or disabilities to spend time on and use to develop new skills.

Chris has committed vast amounts and time, energy and passion to the conservation of historic vessels and to the community. The majority of his work is done as a volunteer and his vision and beliefs have helped the Wooden Canal Boat Society develop into the successful society it is today.

James Dulson and George Collinson and Roger Mallinson

James Dulson and George Collinson

James and George are volunteers at National Museums Liverpool and have given their time as volunteers for 27 years and 15 years respectively. They have played a crucial role in the preservation of a number of historic vessels, including the Edmund Gardner vessel in particular. They have taken part in a number of tasks, including painting the hull, sanding the woodwork and cleaning and washing the decks. One of their current tasks is the sanding and painting of the Gardner’s replica lifeboats. They are invaluable members of the team and their dedication and hard work over the decade that they have worked on the Edmund Gardner has been a vital factor in the preservation of the ship.

Roger Mallinson
Roger has been instrumental to the restoration of the 1906 SL Shamrock vessel, having begun work on it in 1976 when he rescued the boat from destruction, recognising her historical value to Windermere. He returned the vessel to steam and has operated and maintained it ever since, first on his own and now under the Shamrock Trust. He has worked from memory to advise the Windermere Steamboat Museum on the vessel’s restoration, and is a skilled engineer, designing and building the Shamrock’s engines. Roger is highly respected by staff, volunteers and other consultants and is a great mentor, helping others who are involved with the restoration to develop their skills.

He has worked with the Museum to document the history of the vessel and the lake and is keen to pass on his knowledge to other members of the community and younger generations. Roger’s lifelong commitment to this work is truly inspirational.

Lisa and Derek Chafer and Simon Sawyers

Lisa and Derek Chafer

Lisa and Derek have been committed members of the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society (HKSPS) for over five years. They have encouraged a steady stream of volunteers and have provided the Society with a lifeline of refocused activity. In a difficult financial year, Lisa and Derek identified the possibility for the society’s ships to become exhibition vessels, appearing at local and regional events. This has given the Society broader exposure and has enabled them to raise public understanding of historic vessels. They have focused particularly on the Amy Howson, a steel hulled Sheffield keel built in 1914 by Joss Scarr & Sons, which carried cargo. As members of the restoration crew, Lisa and Derek have undertaken routine and seasonal maintenance work, becoming well acquainted with the skills necessary to physically maintain an historic sailing barge.

Simon Sawers
Simon Sawers is a volunteer on the SS Explorer, one of the last surviving sea-going steam trawlers in the world, and has been active for nearly 15 years in helping to preserve the vessel. Simon has recently taken on the role of Chairman of the SS Explorer Preservation Society and through hard work and determination, has brought new life to the organisation. He has recruited a fresh wave of volunteers to work alongside old members, linking the past and future generations as well as securing new sources of funding and support from the local authority.
Simon is a fantastic engineer, shipwright and maritime historian, and is always willing to share his wide range of skills and knowledge. He has shown a hands-on approach when it comes to the physical restoration of the ship, taking on tasks such as the rebuilding of diesel generators, chipping and painting. His informed and measured approach has ensured that the small resources of the Society are used in the most effective manner and his contributions to the organisation and the restoration of the SS Explorer have been invaluable.

Robert Skuse

Robert Skuse has been a volunteer with the British Museum Services for over 18 years. He works full time at sea on North Sea rig support vessels and volunteers at the museum during his time off, highlighting his dedication and passion for historic vessels. The museum is an established Royal Yachting Association (RYA) centre and carries out training and certification of volunteer crews geared to their vessels – the Mayflower, the Pyronaut and the John King.

Robert trained as an instructor, at his own expense, and has devised a training programme for the volunteers, taking them through all aspects of boat handling as deck crews before moving to development as internally certified engine room crews and helmsmen. So far, he has successfully trained over 15 volunteers. He has enabled volunteers, some of whom are over twice his age, to improve the skill and confidence with which they handle vessels.

Robert was also a key volunteer in the project which saw the museum’s steam tug, the Mayflower, made fully functional in time for her 150th anniversary.