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The Cunard White Star Connection


Many people are unaware that the Clyde Steamer Queen Mary was the original vessel on the register named after King George V's queen, Queen Mary. The Turbine Steamers company had followed this naming principle since the introduction of the world's pioneering passenger turbine steamer, King Edward, in 1901 and its successor was granted the right for their new steamer in 1933. This posed a problem for the Cunard White Star Company, who, in building the world's largest liner, wanted to use the same name (*). The ships would not be engaged in the same trade but would inevitably meet at times on the Clyde and the smaller ship, on its daily cruise from Glasgow to the Clyde resorts would pass directly the shipyard of John Brown at Clydebank as the massive new liner took shape in 1933 and 1934. The name could not be used twice on the register. Eventually an agreement was reached whereby the Clyde Steamer was renamed Queen Mary II. This was commemorated in a plaque presented to the Williamson-Buchanan Company who owned the Glasgow-based steamer and which was affixed aboard the ship. A portrait of HM Queen Mary was also presented and took pride of place in the forward lounge on the promenade deck. Queen Mary II outlived the Cunard liner as an operational ship and readopted her original name in 1976 and sailed as Queen Mary for two seasons until she also went into retirement.

(*) The story circulates that in their request of the monarch, King George V, to use a royal name for their new liner, the Cunard-White Star company's chairman asked the king whether they could use the name of the country's greatest ever queen. The monarch responded immediately that his wife would be most delighted. The company had not intended to name their ship Queen Mary, but Queen Victoria in honour of the longest reigning monarch who presided over the world-wide expansion of the British Empire. However, in view of the king's response, arrangements were hastily made for the alternative name and hence the urgent negotiations with the Williamson-Buchanan company on the Clyde.


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For two summers before she was retired, Queen Mary sailed once again without the "II", readopting her original name once the Cunard ocean liner had been removed from the register. The lower plaque commemorates the original re-naming in 1934
Photo kindly supplied by Andrew King


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HM Queen Mary's portrait can be seen in the centre background in the ship's forward loung on the promenade deck.
Photo by Ian Stewart taken in 1968

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The Cunard company continued to use royal names for its  most prestige ocean liners and for their next vessel, they chose Queen Elizabeth, the name of the queen of the recently crowned King George VI.
Her launch and fitting out coincided with the outbreak of World War II and she was immediately pressed into service as a troop ship on the transatlantic service.

In 2004, the Cunard company, by now a subsidiary of the US-owned Carnival Corporation, put a new "Queen Mary" into service and named her "Queen Mary 2" and replacing their Queen Elizabeth 2 of 1967, took delivery of Queen Victoria in 2007 and a new Queen Elizabeth in 2010.

As part of the large body of art work aboard Queen Mary 2, five large nautical scenes featuring Cunard vessels by renowned maritime artist Gordon Bauwens take pride of place. One features the first Queen Elizabeth with the Clyde steamer Queen Mary, now sailing as Queen Mary II alongside.

It shows the smaller vessel presumably acting as a tender to the ocean liner. If it is to represent historical accuracy, it could only be to show a scene from 1947 before the Clyde steamer received an enclosed wheelhouse and when the liner left the Clyde in Cunard colours after her post-war refit and belatedly underwent her sea trials.

Photo of on-board artwork by kind courtesy of Robert McLuckie.

Following the purchase of Queen Mary by the Friends of TS Queen Mary, the Cunard company have been generous in assisting the charity and in November 2016 it was announced that an amount of furniture and artwork had been gifted following the refurbishment of the liner Queen Mary 2.


One of the trustees of the charity is Ronnie Kier, a former Chief Engineer with Cunard

 

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