A former QE2 captain has set his feet firmly on dry land to perform weddings with West Lothian Council.
Nick Bates, who has also captained the Queen Mary II amongst other ships, will be marrying couples across the area. However, it’s not totally uncharted waters for the 66-year-old sailor, as he has already conducted more than 50 ceremonies at sea, with his rank allowing him to perform the nuptials for a bride and groom.
Mr Bates grew up in Ardglass in Northern Ireland and inherited a love of the sea from his father and grandfather. He bought his first boat aged just 11, and went on to naval school from there. He gained his master mariner’s certificate in 1975 and has captained a number of commercial vessels since then, including cruise ships Sapphire Princess and Diamond Princess.
His enjoyment came mainly from the social aspects of his job. He said: “For me, the people are the most important part of this job, just as they were on the ships.
“I was told once ‘If you like going to sea and like people, work on a cruise ship, and if you like going to sea and don’t like people, work on an oil tanker’ and that was an easy choice for me – I just love people.”
In 2005, he published a book of sea expressions and shanties titled With a Pinch of Salt. The book was well received and he continued to regale passengers on board his ships with the tales from his time on deck.
He retired in August 2010 and Cunard held a special celebration of his 45 years as an employee, where a toast was raised and gifts were presented to the captain.
Cunard managing director Peter Shanks described it as “a touching occasion, mostly for our ship’s company who had grown very fond of Nick, but also respected his professionalism and leadership”.
Mr Bates had a happy career on cruise ships and weddings were a highlight.
He said: “There are always surprises. At one of the first weddings I conducted, the red carpet that the bride walked down had actually come from the QE2. I couldn’t believe it – I’d walked down that carpet myself hundreds of times and now here it was! It certainly made me feel more at home.”
Mr Bates’ wife, Kefah, who he married in 2009, was present at the ceremony to see how highly regarded he was among his colleagues.
Now they are both living in Ratho, where he plans to mix his new duties as a celebrant with his charity work for Care and Repair, helping elderly and disabled people and as a barge skipper for the Seagull Trust, which organises cruises for people with special needs. He is also an esteemed public speaker.
He added: “I am looking forward to meeting more of the wonderful people of West Lothian and helping them through their special day. I’m also pleased to be working with such great and supportive teams in both Livingston and Bathgate, they have really helped me to settle in.”