Bob McGoran was presented with the Governor of Aruba’s Medal in a special ceremony on the Caribbean island earlier this year.
The medal from Governor Alfonso Boekhoudt was given on behalf of the King of the Netherlands and recognised a special friendship between Bob’s father, the late Joseph McGoran, and Sam Viapree, who were both working on the island in the early 1940s.
Explaining more, former teacher Bob said: “Getting the Governor’s Medal, they told me, was like receiving the Keys to the City and would make me an honoured guest on the island on any future visit.”
Together with his brother, Bob was working through diaries kept by his father when he was stationed in Aruba defending oil refineries, of which Sam was a manager.
Intrigued by the island and his father’s time there, Bob and wife Sheila planned a cruise holiday and contacted the governor and the parliament, tourism authority and the Royal Shell oil refinery to let them know of the links and the visit.
They set off having heard nothing from the islands, but were in for a pleasant surprise.
He explained: “We were contacted on the ship by the social events manager who said the Aruba Tourism Authority had been trying to get in touch, I had told them our dates and who were were travelling with. The governor had taken an interest in our letter and of the thousands they get each year the story, they said, had touched their hearts and were really moved by the friendship.”
Staff on the island had managed to track down two Viapree family members on the islands and invited them to a meeting.
Bob said: “When we arrived there were representatives of the tourism agency, the governor, and lots of media. We were taken to the governor’s mansion and walked through beautiful Caribbean gardens and then there were about eight soldiers in a guard of honour saluting us.
“We thought we would perhaps have coffee and a chat and that would be about it.”
The officials were keen to hear more about the friendship and explained there was little social history known to paint a picture of the island at that time, during WWII.
And Bob said: “As the meeting was drawing to a close, he became very formal and said he wanted to present me with a medal on behalf of the King of the Netherlands and the people of Aruba.
“I nearly fell off my chair.
“He explained very few are given out and that it is a great honour.”
Afterwards the Moffat couple were taken on a limousine tour of the islands and shown the barracks in which the late Mr McGoran was stationed and the refinery he protected.
Now back in Moffat, Bob proudly holds his small golden medal and is continuing looking into his family history.