Introduction by Robert Alec Snow Irving, Captain Royal Navy (Retd.)

Chief of the Name and Arms of Irving of Bonshaw

I am writing these few paragraphs by way of introduction and to provide some background.

In 2014, the Lord Lyon King of Arms conferred this recognition upon me as direct descendant of William Irving of Bonshaw upon whom the honour was first conferred in the 1670s.

My professional life divides easily into two parts: 32 years in the British Royal Navy and 35 years (thus far) as a translator of Arabic.

Two years at sea in the Korean War at the age of 20 were a valuable introduction to the sort of thing the Navy got involved in. Having always had an interest in languages, I passed the Civil Service examinations in five European languages and qualified in Arabic at the Middle East Centre of Arab Studies (a UK Foreign Office school) in Lebanon in 1956, followed by a year at sea in the Persian Gulf, and then commanded one of the four ships of the Fishery Protection Squadron in the North Sea and Scottish waters, based at South Queensferry. I regret to say that in 1958 I arrested a Scottish trawler for illegally fishing off North Rona. This was not popular in some quarters but was met with general acclaim in Stornoway.

In the succeeding years, I commanded a shore establishment in the UK and warships in the Persian Gulf and West Indies. I spent three years as Naval Attaché at the British Embassy in Cairo, which also covered Khartoum, and attended the funeral of President Nasser in 1970. Three years in charge of a department of the Defence Intelligence Staff in Whitehall was followed by six months at the NATO Defence College, Rome, and three years as Chief of Staff at the NATO headquarters of the Iberian Atlantic Area, west of Lisbon in Portugal, in the rank of Commodore. In short, a career considerably more varied than many of my naval colleagues.

Since retiring from the Navy in 1980, I have worked as a freelance Arabic translator for a variety of commercial companies, government departments and law firms, covering most fields including criminal law, contracts and Arab legal codes. There have been highlights, for example a major criminal case that ran for several years and ended with the chief miscreants being sentenced to “245 years imprisonment followed by exile on completion of sentence”.

In November 1956, I married Elisabeth Schubart, daughter of the director of Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, so our diamond wedding anniversary is due next year. She has been a much loved and supportive companion in my various tours in the UK and abroad. We have three sons, four grandsons and three granddaughters.

I, and I am sure you, are proud to be part of this ancient Border Clan which, unlike some others that were less fortunate, did not submit to the English Crown in the 16th century and has a documented history that goes back 600 years and beyond.