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Veteran Chef – Private Don Magugan

Donald Wilfred Magugan might not have been a household name – or one that rolls off the tongue easily – but it’s often said that an army marches on its stomach. If that’s true, then it’s in no small part to the skills of Private Don Magugan, a Kirkdale lad hailing from Harcourt Street, L5.

Together with his brother in arms James ‘Jimmy’ Walpole, from Herriot Street in Kirkdale, they stepped forward from their TA unit when many shirked the responsibility and hid in the dark shadows. In total, it was estimated that the pair, led by head chef Donald, rustled up over 100,000 pans of Scouse at various field canteens throughout the nation during the cold war of the 1980s.

Awarded the little known Craddock Cross for army cooking services in 1987 – in the same week in May that his beloved Everton lifted their last First Division championship – he was truly revered locally. He couldn’t walk into the Lighthouse pub without someone offering him a free pint, such was his notoriety.

Don and Jimmy

I caught up with him by accident during the Remembrance Sunday parade at St Georges Plateau on the 10 November, where he was invited to an after ceremony function in St Georges Hall – an offer he took with relish to meet old friends and comrades. “Norfolk, Dorset, Aberdeenshire – you name it,” he told me. “If there was a need for my services, I was there. I was lucky I was largely unemployed due to Thatcher’s government throughout the ‘80s, so I could just go at a moment’s notice. My unit couldn’t afford a second uniform so I took the smells of all that lovely cooking with me wherever I went. Imagine it, helping the Queen’s soldiers yet her government couldn’t offer me a full time job or even supply a second outfit for me,” he said. And Jimmy knows nothing has changed as homeless soldiers are discarded now, “I know how they feel and often offer them sausage rolls from the Pound Bakery on Stanley Road.”

Donald is a proud yet humble man, saying, “If just someone could do a snippet of what I do, the world would be a better place. I’m a giver, not a taker and I suppose it’s just in me and I’ll be like this until my last breath.”

Luckily, his last breath wasn’t at Altcar rifle range, Hightown, in 1988, where he took a laceration to his chest. He was saved miraculously by his wallet, placed in the top pocket of his tunic as a stray bullet came his way. I couldn’t help think as he walked into St George’s Hall on Remembrance Sunday that, if ever a man was deserving of some recognition, even locally, then there he was. Donald is 50 this month. He reckoned he’d never see it. Let’s celebrate the fact such a man is still here.