A dedicated Tayside chaplain who has been a friendly face in a faraway port for sailors from across the globe has notched up a remarkable milestone.
As port chaplain for the international Sailors’ Society over the past 12 years, Peter Donald has now completed 6,000 ship visits, meeting a staggering 100,000 seafarers in the process.
He notched up the 6,000th visit with a trip on board the Pacific Leader in Montrose, where, along with the ports of Dundee and Perth, Peter has been a familiar face since 2005.
Peter said his role, offering practical, emotional and spiritual support, combines a number of his passions.
“I felt that becoming a port chaplain for Sailors’ Society was my destiny, as it took me back to my roots and combines my love of God, the sea and people,” he said.
“The Pacific Leader’s crew came from many nationalities, which epitomises the work we are doing.”
Peter attended Leith Nautical College before going to sea and then spending most of his working life as an auctioneer in the fishing industry in Newhaven and Arbroath.
To the world’s 1.6 million seafarers, who can spend up to nine months away from home, figures like Peter represent a friendly face in a faraway port.
He may have travelled enough gangplank miles to climb Ben Nevis 26 times, but Peter isn’t entertaining any thoughts of slowing down anytime soon.
“The ships coming into the ports might have changed, but the needs of the people on them haven’t,” he continued.
“Seafarers still face isolation and loneliness and the need for chaplaincy support is as present today as it was when I made my first visits.”
In 2013 Peter helped a Filipino seafarer traumatised by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. The crewman’s house had been flattened but he had to leave his family to make ends meet and provide for them.
Sensing how upset the man was, Peter contacted his colleagues on the other side of the world, who were able to offer support and the Sailors’ Society gave the family an emergency welfare grant and arranged for their house to be rebuilt.
“It took a great weight off his shoulders when I told him my colleagues in the Philippines were supporting his family to get back on their feet. It meant the world to him,” Peter said.
“We care for people and are able to help and this was one of the occasions where I knew there was a happy ending.”
Peter was also integral in the setting up the Montrose Seafarers’ Centre and said the society has always received vital backing from the ports it serves.
“Whether it has been knitting a woolly hat for a seafarer or through prayer or practical support, the local community has been terrific,” he said.