Chirnside man wins fight to wear his kilt at sea

Captain Derek Gray, from Chirnside with his wife Claire and son, Dylan
Captain Derek Gray, from Chirnside with his wife Claire and son, Dylan

A ship’s captain from Chirnside has won a naval battle for Scotland – earning the right to wear his kilt during receptions at sea.

Derek Gray has been wowing cruise-goers from Majorca to Mustique by hosting black-tie receptions in his Granite City kilt and grey hose.

His family colours are Royal Stewart, but Derek claims to wear the Granite City tartan because “my wife said it clashes with her outfits”.

“All I am is an accessory to her dress sense, like shoes and a handbag!” he joked.

P&O Cruises senior vice-president Paul Ludlow said: “We are delighted for Captain Gray to wear his kilt on formal night.”

In doing so, he’s the only one of 34 masters in the P&O line to sport the tartan on formal nights.

One English traveller said: “We love this new captain. The last one we sailed with said two words of welcome, gave us one drink and he was off.

“Captain Gray loves telling jokes, and we got four drinks at his welcome party – that will do for me!”

But it’s not all been plain sailing for the 40-year-old.

Bosses at P&O floated a new draft policy on staff dress code which would allow only non-uniformed crew to wear the kilt at formal occasions.

Derek complained that this would be unfair, though.

“Fortunately, they agreed,” he said. “And now that I’ve helped changed the policy, I am determined to wear my kilt whenever I can.”

His life on the ocean wave as captain of Ventura is shared with his wife Claire, 35, and the couple’s two-year-old son, Dylan.

His mother joined him for a recent cruise – and soon the little boy in him emerged.

He said: “This is a dream job, and no mistake.

“I still think it’s a big wow that I do what I do.

Speaking about when his mother joined the family on board, Derek said: “We were in port one day, having a coffee in a pavement cafe. I pointed to Ventura and said ‘mum, I’m in charge of that giant in the harbour. Is that not unbelievable?’

“Every single day is different. I describe docking as a controlled collision with a concrete wall’.

“If you come in too quick and get it wrong, the ship’s momentum is huge. That’s why I insist my senior officers do the parking.”

Derek’s career began as a teenage marine cadet in 1994. He wrote to every shipping line to get a start in the industry and eventually secured a job with Shell.