American Philanthropist Helps Restore Historic Scottish Steamer

Built in 1872, Kyles is believed to be Scotland's oldest surviving coastal steamer - photo courtesy of the Scottish Maritime Museum

Published Dec 11, 2020 2:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

Restoration work on Scotland’s historic steamer Kyles is getting underway after a major donation from a reader of The Maritime Executive. Philanthropist John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder of two global brands and a dedicated preservationist, met the Scottish Maritime Museum’s challenge by providing a £15,000 ($20,000) donation for restoration work on the oldest floating Clyde-built vessel in the UK.

Mr. DeJoria said that he learned of the effort after a friend called his attention to the project. After reading an article about the restoration project that ran on The Maritime Executive on December 6, Mr. DeJoria decided to contribute to the effort.

“It is important to support efforts to retain the visual reminders of our heritage – It is so important for adults to share with children and for children to have the opportunity to see, feel, and touch history,” said Mr. DeJoria.

Just over halfway through its fundraising campaign, the Museum says that the generosity of Mr. DeJoria and other donors has made it possible for essential repairs to the Kyles to get underway.  The historic vessel was brought out of Irvine Estuary earlier this week in advance of the repairs, and the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Scottish Boat Building School and curatorial teams hope to begin the work in early 2021.

“We are thrilled to receive such a generous donation from Mr. DeJoria,” said David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum. “His donation, along with the many other generous donations made to the Crowdfunder campaign, ensures we can make essential repairs to our 1872 cargo coaster. With such a terrific response, we can be more ambitious. Our Crowdfunder runs until 22 December and, if we can attract enough new donations, we can get the engine serviced, a major job on this 122 tonne vessel.”

The Kyles had a long, hard working life, being adapted for different roles across the UK by 24 different owners, according to the Museum. Built by John Fullerton & Co. in 1872, she first served as a tender for the Clyde fishing fleet up until 1881 and going on to operate as a cargo coaster, sand dredger, and even a sludge tanker before being retired to the Scottish Maritime Museum in 1984.

Funds raised from the current campaign will be used to repaint the Kyles inside and out, restore the cabins to how they would have looked when it was a working vessel, and create new interpretations. The Museum’s goal is to complete as much preservation work as it can in time for the vessel’s 150th anniversary in 2022 and ensure that this historic vessel remains part of Scotland’s living maritime heritage for decades to come.

Mr. DeJoria, who co-founded two global brands, Paul Mitchell (hair products) and Patron (tequila), is one of the signatories on Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet’s ‘Giving Pledge,’ committing billionaires to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Established in 2011, his JP’s Peace, Love & Happiness Foundation channels the DeJoria family’s commitment to contributing to a sustainable planet through investing in people, protecting animals and conserving the environment.

Since 2018, he has been the owner (custodian) of Taymouth Castle, located in the town of Kenmore, Scotland, which dates to 1552 and is regarded as the most important Scottish castle in private ownership. Along with ongoing preservation efforts at Taymouth Castle, Mr. DeJoria also acquired in 1992 and restored a 1927 85-foot private railroad carriage originally operated by Gulf Mobile & Ohio Railroad. The carriage’s former guests included US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Louisiana Governor Huey Long and actor Clark Gable, among others. The carriage is now known as The Patron Tequila Express. He also recently acquired a 1968 57-foot Chris-Craft Constellation, which required eighteen months to restore.