Swan Volunteer Wins 2022 Marsh Volunteer Award

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22 November 2022

The Swan Trust SCIO is delighted that one of their volunteers, Ian Nicolson, has been awarded the National Historic Ships UK and Marsh Charitable Trust, Marsh Volunteer Award (Individual) 2022.

The Marsh Volunteer Awards recognise the significant contribution volunteers make to the conservation and operation of historic vessels in the UK, with awards made in three categories: Individual, group and Shipshape Network.

Ian was nominated for the Individual award by the Swan Trust, in recognition of the incredible voluntary support he has given to the Trust since 1999. Brian Wishart, Trustee, explains more:

“Ian came aboard Swan for a trip in 1999, and was so captivated he approached us to ask if there was anything he could do to help. With his background in marine engineering, he soon became our consultant, and person in charge of, all aspects of the mechanical and electrical engineering of Swan’s equipment. But it is not just his engineering skills which we nominated him for. Ian is an incredibly well liked member of the team – with his natural, friendly and helpful approach to everyone he meets and engages with. As a regular crew member, he is well liked by everyone who comes aboard, both for his patient and encouraging nature in teaching them to sail and for his stories and knowledge of Shetland’s maritime heritage. He is also very supportive and generous with this time and knowledge, showing our crew and volunteers how to maintain the engine and other mechanical equipment aboard. When we discussed making a nomination for this award, Ian’s name was the one which came forward unanimously from trustees and crew, and we are delighted he has won – it is well deserved.”

The awards were announced at the National Historic Ships UK virtual ceremony on 22nd November, which saw a range of awards being made in celebration of maritime heritage around the UK. Ian appeared during the ceremony, in a pre-recorded thank you film, which showed his usual selfless nature:

“I am only one of a great many volunteers who do a great deal and are just as committed to keep the Swan and all the other classic and iconic boats going. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge all the volunteers who help care for these vessels and thank National Historic Ships UK and Marsh Charitable Trust for highlighting all our work.

Like many, I don’t do what I do for recognition or reward, my reward is seeing the look on a school child or sail trainee’s face as they take the helm as the vessel surges on under sail, or as people, strangers, arrive on board, greeting each other politely, at the start of a trip, and a week later, gelled together, working as a team, with friendships forged that lasts long after the trip has finished.

Over the years, a great many school children have sailed on the Swan, thrilled by hauling up sails and steering at the helm. Many have come back as youth sail trainees to take part in the Tall Ships Races - an experience those who take part say is one of the best things they will ever do. Several have also gone on to marine careers all around the world – their interest first sparked from their school trip on the Swan.

I have also had the opportunity to visit some amazing places and meet some amazing people, including seeing a town partially covered with lava in the Westman Islands of Iceland.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the late Allister Rendall, who passed away last year. I had known Allister for a long time, and he was one of the original team who had the vision to return the Swan to Shetland, have her restored, and provide the means to give the young people in Shetland and further afield the chance to experience sailing. He also encouraged me to first become involved in working with the Swan, and I have never looked back.

So thank you, to Allister, and everyone I have met and worked with over the years, and I look forward to working with friends, old and new, to continue to care for and sail our unique historic vessel – the Swan.”

National Historic Ships Director, Hannah Cunliffe, said about the award: “I am pleased that, thanks to the support of our sponsors the Marsh Charitable Trust, National Historic Ships UK is able to recognise the huge contribution that volunteers such as Ian Nicolson make in the maintenance and conservation of vessels on the National Registers. Ian's story particularly caught the judges' attention, with the years of commitment shown and the many tasks undertaken. Congratulations on a very well-deserved win!

Swan Trust Chair, David Goodlad officially presented Ian with his Award Certificate at the Swan Trust end of season gathering. He will also receive a cheque for £750 from National Historic Ships.

The Trust is a charity which relies on volunteers and a range of funding to help them care for and operate the Swan. If you would like to support the Trust visit our volunteer or donation pages.


Want to get involved in maintaining and operating a traditional wooden sailing vessel? There are a number of different ways you can volunteer to safeguard, care for and sail this unique heritage asset.

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