New memorial unveiled to the ‘Gentleman of the Seas’

A new memorial has been unveiled on the Birkenhead waterfront dedicated to a Peruvian national hero and his Laird’s-built warship.

The Mayor of Wirral, Councillor Jerry Williams, was joined by the Ambassador of Peru in the UK, His Excellency Juan Carlos Gamarra, to unveil the new memorial to Grand Admiral Miguel Grau on Friday, 23 February.

The site for the new memorial, close to the Monks Ferry slipway, was chosen as it is just a stones-throw from the dry dock where his vessel, Huascar, was built and launched by Laird Brothers in 1865.

The Mayor of Wirral, and the borough’s Heritage Champion, Councillor Jerry Williams, said, “Our year as Borough of Culture provides a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on and to celebrate Wirral’s incredible culture and heritage, so I am delighted that the new memorial is helping to tell the story of a ground-breaking vessel and her iconic master, Miguel Grau.

“It explains the life of an extraordinary man and his formidable Birkenhead-built ship, cementing the link between him, this town, and our magnificent shipyard.”

The stretch of the promenade where the memorial is located has been renamed Grand Admiral Miguel Grau Walk and the monument joins others along the riverfront dedicated to other legendary figures, including Wallasey-born Spitfire Pilot Jack Potter and the Cockleshell Hero, Corporal Albert Laver of Birkenhead.

Miguel Grau remains an iconic figure for the people of Peru who, in 2000, recognised him as the ‘Peruvian of the Millennium’ in a public vote.

He remains known as ‘El Caballero de los Mares’ – Spanish for ‘Gentleman of the Seas ‘ – for his kind and chivalrous treatment of defeated enemies.

He posthumously received the rank of Gran Almirante del Perú (Grand Admiral of Peru) in 1967 by order of the Peruvian Government.

Work to restore Huascar began in 1951 and she continues to operate as a floating museum and memorial in the port of Talcahuano in Chile. She remains the only Laird’s built vessel from that era that survives today.

Image: (L-R) Captain Eduardo Zamora Chung, The High Sheriff of Merseyside, Commander Judith Barnes, Royal Navy, Consul-general of Peru, Rear Admiral Jose Regalado, Ambassador Juan Carlos Gamarra, The Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside, The Mayor of Wirral, The Mayor’s Attendant

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