Captain Angus McDonald, FNI

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Angus McDonald loved the sea and ships, yet he did not come from a seafaring family. In fact, as far as we know, he was the first member of his family to go to sea.  His father was a soldier, and his grandfather was a police officer.

Angus was born and brought up in Glasgow, one of the main seaports of Britain at the time.  The River Clyde was an exciting place, with dozens of ships from all over the world in port, and Britain’s leading shipbuilders constructing notable ships like Cunard’s Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.

Angus made many trips by paddle steamer down the Clyde to Rothesay on the island of Bute where he had family.  These trips likely awakened in him his lifelong fascination with shipping and the sea. 

As a high school student, he kept a scrapbook and diaries describing the war at sea as it was from 1939 to 1942.  He was a keen member of the Sea Scouts and in 1943, he got a job as deck boy on a fishing boat taking supplies out to the convoy ships anchored in Rothesay Bay.

In 1943, at the age of 17, he joined his first ship, and survived being torpedoed in the South Atlantic. He continued his maritime career, from cadet through to navigating officer, tug skipper, harbour pilot, and command of his own ships. After sailing as Master on several ships, he came ashore, immigrating to Canada in 1967.  In Montreal, he continued to work in the maritime profession, including as marine surveyor, port warden, and marine safety consultant.

Captain McDonald made significant contributions to the maritime sector over the years through his work with Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, the Nautical Institute, Canadian Executive Service Organization, and the International Ocean Institute – Canada.  He was a founding member and past president of the Atlantic Division of the Company of Master Mariners of Canada and a Fellow of the Nautical Institute. Angus was deeply involved in organizing numerous International Conferences and seminars on a wide range of shipping issues from Cleaner Seas to Criminalization of Seafarers to Arctic Shipping concerns and Autonomous Shipping. From 1984 to 1991 he was an instructor for Marine Safety Programs at the Nova Scotia Nautical Institute in Halifax.  Between 1985 and 1991 he established and ran the Sea Venture Society, a non-profit sail training venture for young people, giving them experience at sea on a tall ship sailing out of Halifax.  

Throughout his career, Angus was an avid writer and contributor of professional papers and commentary to nautical publications. He was instrumental in committees organising annual seminars on nautical matters, pollution and safety of seafarers. He was an avid volunteer and had a passion for learning and teaching. In 2018, Angus was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers acknowledging his volunteer efforts in various aspects of the nautical field, in the Rotary Club, Church, Meals on Wheels and the Sea Venture Society.  Angus was a member of the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust which advocates to preserve HMCS Sackville just as she was in 1944. Being a seafarer, he recognized the important work of the Mission to Seafarers in Halifax and remained a strong supporter of the Mission. In February 2020, Angus was awarded the UK Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service for his contribution to the safety of seafarers and to the maritime industry. In the last year of his life, Angus achieved his goal of completing his book My Lucky Life, chronicling his years at sea. Angus built lasting relationships with many people over his life and career; and his energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, and strength of personality are well known and remembered.

Angus was an ardent proponent of the maritime profession; he appreciated and respected all facets of it.  He believed in the value of professional development and the maintenance and transfer of education, knowledge, and skills. In advocating his cause, The Master Mariners of Canada Foundation is in the process of establishing a bursary, in memory of Angus, to help active mariners acquire additional education and training that may be needed to bring their seagoing careers ashore. If you are interested in supporting Angus’ belief and would like to contribute to the bursary, please contact Captain Jim Parsons at or Captain John Ennis  at