HELENSBURGH resident Dennis Royal, who has died aged 91, gained new recognition late in life as the owner of Helensburgh’s most famous cat – but that was far from his only claim to fame.

Born on April 13, 1929, he was the third child, and only son, to Dennis Royal senior, from Job’s Cove, Newfoundland, and Greta Turner, from Carrick Castle.

He grew up with his two sisters, Jean and Margaret, in Glenlea, Clynder, attending Rosneath and Kilcreggan primary schools and then Hermitage Academy.

Sailing on his father’s yacht, Jedemar - designed and built by his uncle James McGruer at the renowned McGruer and Company boatyard in Rosneath - as a child led Dennis to dream of a career at sea, only to fail the Merchant Navy deck officer’s entrance exam when it was discovered he was red/green colour blind.

Instead he chose to travel and see the world for himself, visiting his Newfoundland roots regularly and eventually joining an oil tanker as an engineer, sailing between the USA and South America.

Perforated eardrums, the result of childhood pneumonia, meant he failed the medical exam for National Service; while living in Maryland, USA, he was conscripted into the US forces to fight in the Korean War, but his ear injury prevented him joining the US Air Force.

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Back home he started sailing with his friend Erik Maxwell on Loch Long at Cove and Kilcreggan Sailing Club and went into partnership with Erik to run Jardine Brothers Garage in Kilcreggan.

He met his future wife Elizabeth Campbell, who lived in Rosneath, at a dance in Cove, and the couple married in June 1962.

Sailing with Erik on his friend’s 12-metre yacht Sceptre, the pair flew south every weekend during the season to race at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, where they won the Queen’s Cup every year they entered, Dennis playing an integral role as Erik’s right-hand man and spinnaker trimmer.

He also had the opportunity to sail on Sceptre with the Duke of Edinburgh at the helm during Cowes Week, and as a result of their successes on Sceptre, Dennis was chosen to be part of the America’s Cup crew for the 1964 challenge on board Sovereign, built in Dunoon and helmed by Sir Peter Scott.

After the couple’s daughter Jacqueline was born in 1968, Dennis decided to go to the University of Strathclyde to study Scottish history and politics under the esteemed Professor – now Sir – Tom Devine, though his passion for yacht racing was undimmed, and with Alastair Stewart on his ketch Lone Leopard, he completed three Banff to Stavanger races among many offshore events.

Dennis trained as a teacher and spent four years in the history department at Hermitage Academy, and then lecturing in maritime history at the Nautical College in Glasgow, before retiring at the age of 64.

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That gave him time to pursue his interest in local history – an interest which led to him writing and publishing a book about the little-known American naval base at Rosneath during the Second World War. He also raised funds for a monument on the site of the base to commemorate the men who served there, and many dignitaries attended the memorial’s unveiling in 2000, when he was delighted to be made an honorary member of the United States Naval Construction Battalion – the ‘Seabees’ – who had built the base.

He started to write another book – this one about the Scottish involvement in the America’s Cup – but sadly developed dementia before he could finish it.

Dennis, who moved with Elizabeth from Clynder to Helensburgh just before his 80th birthday, to be closer to Jacqueline and his grandchildren, always loved cats, and had many throughout his life – though none better known than George, who he and Elizabeth adopted from the Cats Protection League and who became a global superstar in 2019 when the ‘George the Helensburgh Cat’ Facebook page was launched to chronicle his adventures.

As his dementia progressed Dennis had to move in to the Argyll Care Home last August, though George was able to sneak in regularly to visit for cuddles.

He was a kind and gentle man and will be sadly missed. Although his motto was “why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?”, Dennis leaves a legacy to be proud of.