Military historian and amateur diver, Alexander McKee (1918-1992), searched throughout the 1960s for the wreck of Henry VIII's favourite warship, the Mary Rose. The ship famously sank in the Solent in 1545 fighting a French invasion fleet. During his searches, doubters nicknamed it 'McKee's Ghost Ship' and believed it to be lost forever. Undeterred, 'Mac' and his team of weekend amateur divers doggedly searched for the ship's remains, using steel rods to probe the seabed until they finally struck timber in 1968.
Without McKee's stubborn determination the Mary Rose would still be lost to the sea. He was later awarded an OBE for his tireless campaign in search of the wreck.
Rear Admiral John Lippiett, Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust, said "we are delighted that Alex's fundamental and vital role in locating and identifying the Mary Rose has been recognised in this way. The bust will be mounted in the gallery which is named after him and is dedicated to those early days of rediscovery and displays one of Alex's original dive logs."
He added, "The project wouldn't be what it is today without the foresight and inspiration of Alex and the divers which eventually led to the excavation and raising of the ship and her amazing collection of artefacts on view today. The new museum fulfils the dreams they had over 40 years ago."
The bust, created by sculptor Luke Shepherd in his studio in Ashburton, Devon will be mounted in the museum's McKee Gallery. Although the artist never met his subject he was guided by the family and studied photographs and film. His achievement in modelling a true likeness of McKee has been summed up by one of his early fellow divers, shipwright Morrie Young, who is a volunteer guide at the museum. "Wow. Brilliant! A perfect likeness. I thought it was going to talk to me", he said.
Mac's daughter Cornelia who helped with the search and has taken on the role of family archivist added: "Dad would be so proud and pleased to see this wonderful museum with the Mary Rose displayed exactly as he envisaged it and this bust is the icing on the cake! It went from a childhood dream to reality. Well done, Dad!"