Who Goes There?
A Former Student From Moseley!
Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London and former Moseley Modern School pupil Peter McGowran was the eldest of eight children living in Highgate, Birmingham in 1958. He started school at Chandos School before the family moved to Phipson Road, Sparkhill when he continued his junior years at St John’s before eventually joining Moseley Modern School in 1969. Peter takes up the story:
I would not change a thing: I enjoyed all the sport especially playing cricket and football for the school and taking part in the school performances that were laid on year after year, it was a blast. I believe that it is possibly due to the thespian in me that life eventually got me into the Tower of London as a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater).
Enlisting in the Royal Air Force Regiment in March 1975, I progressed through the ranks to become a flight sergeant, operating in many roles around the world; Hong Kong/Chinese border operations, Northern Ireland, Belize, many years in West Germany during the cold war, Cyprus and Gibraltar. I spent over 25 years in the RAF.
I joined the Body of Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London in August 2009, following a period working in the nuclear industry.
The Body consists of a total of 32 Yeoman Warders who all come from a military background, having completed a minimum of 22 years in the armed forces, achieved the minimum rank of sergeant major and have been awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
I now live with my wife Debra in the Old School House at the Tower of London. We have three children, Adam, Laurie and Conor and seven grandchildren. Conor has recently joined the RAF. In my free time, I like going to music concerts and we love the theatre. I am also the Beadle for the Worshipful Company of Coopers and joined the company in 2010/11.
The Chief Yeoman Warder is the most senior member of the Sovereign's Bodyguard based at the Tower of London, known as the Body of Yeoman Warders, and we are often referred to by the visitors as "Beefeaters".
As a serving member of the Yeoman Body, my correct title is 'Chief Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty's Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, Member of the Yeoman of the Guard Extraordinary'. The CYW's daily role within the Tower is to manage the Body of Yeoman Warders, ensuring they are trained and equipped to the highest standards required by Historic Royal Palaces; to oversee the duties and responsibilities of the Yeoman Gaoler, four Yeoman Serjeant's, and to liaise directly with the Resident Governor on all matters affecting the traditions and heritage of the Body of Yeoman Warders. The ceremonial role of the Chief Yeoman Warder, known up until Victorian times as the Gentleman Porter, include giving guided tours to VIP's including members of the royal family, and contributing to the safety and security of this world heritage site. In addition, I may also be called upon to attend the coronation of the sovereign, lyings in state, and many other state and charity functions. My favourite task involves the nightly closing down ceremony of the tower known as the Ceremony of the Keys, which dates back over 700 years.
Since being in the tower I have been involved in some of the most historic events; in 2012 I was sent to the USA to tour various states giving talks about the monarchy and what was going to take place in the UK in 2012 due to HM celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. The same year we enjoyed the London Olympics and keeping all the medals under lock and key at the tower was a very serious chapter in my life.
2014 was the year that we planted 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat, a world class event to commemorate the start of WW1. On the 16th October that year as the chapel clerk for the two chapels of HM within the tower, I had the honour to personally escort HM to re-dedicate the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, we had a service for HM in which I was very honoured to also escort her and the Duke of Edinburgh to the service. In 2018 we put another world class event in the moat of the tower by lighting 10,000 fuel lamps to commemorate the end of WW1, over 50,000 visitors per evening came over a three-week period to observe the spectacle. Since being at the tower I have also spent three years on the raven team, basically looking after 6-8 ravens at a time. This was a very rewarding job. In the last couple of years the tower has made many programmes for TV, “Inside the Tower” on Channel 5 is a three series documentary of what goes on behind the scenes and worth a look.