The debacle of Boaty McBoatface

There have been many illustrious names during British Maritime history.   The Victory, Ark Royal, Illustrious, Endeavour, The Beagle to name just a few.   In the last few months, the public have been given the opportunity to choose the name of the next Polar research vessel.

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Over 7,000 names were put forward with some very worthy entries such as the David Attenborough, named after television’s foremost natural historian.  However most of the top entries were humorous entries such as the RSS What iceberg and RSS It’s Bloody Cold Here, the popular winner turned out to be Boaty McBoatface.

Whilst it says a lot of our self-depreciating nature and lack of respect for authority, one can’t help but think that in most other countries such a jokey entrance would have been eliminated long before the final stages.  One would imagine in most European nations it would have been taken out for not taking things serious enough and you’d imagine an American competition might be dominated by something highly patriotic or inspiring.   We though seem to once more glory in our eccentricities with a name surely inspired by BlackAdder who found himself in the stickiest situation since Sticky the stick insect got stuck on a sticky bun with a dashing of Angus McSporran.

It’s hard not to think that the crew of Boaty McBoatface might not fling themselves overboard at their highly valuable scientific research missions being on such a juvenile named vessel, especially when they encounter a foreign vessel with a more auspicious name.

I always say that there are more stupid people than clever people and that most of the time, the current trend to give a voice to the people brings stupid but very obvious results in everything from reality television to politics.  Personally, I think the name Boaty McBoatface is an awful, stupid name and not even funny but around 120,000 people voted differently.     It seems like the government agrees with me and is belatedly saying that various names are being considered as Boaty McBoatface is not quite setting the image that they would like to project.

However, it that is the case then they just have drawn up a shortlist of 10 or 20 names that would still have attracted as many votes but at least everyone would be happy with the resulting winner.  Now we are stuck either with a multi-million-pound scientific vessel with the stupidest name on the planet or a government that assumes it knows better than the people who voted for it, which in this case it does but it’s all their fault in the first place.

Is the whole affair a perversion of democracy or is it typical of how democracy eventually plays out, especially British democracy with no rules, pressure groups and not much at stake.  After all, as the saying goes, if voting ever changed anything then ‘they’ wouldn’t allow it.  The people almost unanimously want an end to things like multi-national corporation avoiding tax and wealthy pressure groups financing politics and dictators hiding money in off-shore accounts but of course, no-one in charge is quick to change that.

It’s ok for we the people to make our choices known but it is still up to others to act how they wish when in office.  Boaty McBoatface seems to get to the bottom of the difference between them and us…. but on this occasion, I’m very much with them.  On the other hand, how nice to live in a country when so many people have a sense of humour and like to act with a little bit of subversion.

What would you do now?  Change the name or go with the winning entry and have a £200 million / $325 million advanced science vessel called Boaty McBoatface?

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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5 Responses to The debacle of Boaty McBoatface

  1. Francis says:

    The boat should obviously be named after a historical British polar explorer eg. ‘John Franklin’ or ‘William Parry’. In Italy they commonly name ships, streets and even airports after famous countrymen. ‘Aeroporto Galileo Galilei’ for the airport at Pisa sounds so much better than ‘Heathrow’ or ‘Gatwick’ for London – such ugly names!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree Francis, they did say no to Shackleton as they already had him on a boat but with centuries of explorers, the list is bottomless. Even if they want someone contemporary you have Attenborough for the nature or Ranolph Fiennes for exploration or Hawkings for science etc.

      I think that idea about airports is great. They do that well in other countries. Some places in the U.K have started that approach but often it is seen as tacky but surely John Lennon airport is great to prefix Liverpool or Robin Hood for Nottingham… It can only attract people.

      I bet all the Italian ones are very poetic and sound very lyrical.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll make a deal with you, if by some horror Donald Trump is elected President of the US, I will trade him straight across for Boaty McBoatface!! I will even throw in a dozen donuts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. gpj103 says:

    It was a ridiculous outcome really to allow such a ludicrous name as an option…and more ridiculous for people to vote for it…at least they saw sense in the end but it does rather raise the question of why waste everyone’s time by voting a vote if you just then choose your favourite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you entirely. What a stupid idea it was all round to promote such a name but if the organisers allow it then it’s all a farce if they don’t go with it when it wins the competition.


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