Photo of the month: July 2019

On her way back to Glasgow on Friday 28 June, Queen Mary passes Dumbarton, her birthplace

On the morning of Friday 28 June Queen Mary was towed back up the River Clyde from Greenock to her semi-permanent berth next to Glasgow’s Science Centre, adjacent to Waverley. She had been undergoing renovation and maintenance as part of an ongoing plan to turn her into a static heritage attraction in the heart of Glasgow, the city she was designed to serve as a ‘doon the watter’ steamer in 1933.

CRSC member Walter Bowie was out and about with his brother Hamish just as Queen Mary emerged from the James Watt Dock, flying the River Pilot Exemption Flag and under the command of Captain Mark Yeomans. They followed her progress past Dumbarton Rock, close to where she was built, and on to the Erskine Bridge.

“The sun was out, and she looked absolutely lovely,” Walter says. This chance encounter with the ship resulted in the accompanying sequence of photographs, and prompted Walter to reminisce about his association with the former Clyde steamer.

Railway, motorway, river — and steamer, off Dumbuck

I was over the moon when, after a long time appearing to be neglected and almost derelict on the Thames, a group of entrepreneurs raised the necessary funds in 2016 to take ownership of the former Clyde steamer Queen Mary and bring her back home.

It was with even more delight that my brother Hamish and I recently had two close-up encounters with the old lady — on Wednesday 26 June at James Watt Dock, Greenock, where she had been undergoing hull cleaning and other remedial work, and two days later during her early morning passage up the Clyde on her way home to Glasgow, where she really belongs.

In our student days both Hamish and I had occasional spells as Junior Purser on Queen Mary II, as she was known then. In her latter years as an active steamer, I once had a week as Chief Purser on her.

On one occasion when Hamish was on duty, there was a May Day call saying there was a fire in the engine room, en route from Campbeltown. Nothing serious happened. That day I was on Waverley tied up alongside at Tighnabruaich, but initially my greatest concern was for my brother rather than the steamer!

Just as steamer enthusiasts feel some sadness when a steamer is withdrawn, Hamish and I were sorry to see Queen Mary retiring in 1977, and we wondered what might become of ‘The Glasgow boat’.

It was with great pleasure that, after a somewhat long time, we heard that Queen Mary was to be towed to London where she would, after considerable internal renovation, be opened up as a floating restaurant on the Thames Embankment.

Leaving Rothesay Bay c1956 in her postwar heyday on the Clyde

It was just before she began that new role that I, as Publicity Manager of Caledonian MacBrayne, was approached by the PR company working to promote this great new London attraction for information about the ‘living life’ of their new asset, from days of old.

I gave them some pieces of publicity material, from my own archives, and also a large photo I took when I was working on her of Captain Alex Ferguson at the bridge telegraphs.

They framed this and it was prominently displayed in the forward carvery restaurant. I often wondered what eventually became of this. I’d have loved to have had it back.

During her Thames years, every time I was in London I enjoyed a carvery on board, and each time I was attending travel/tourism events in the capital I usually persuaded fellow exhibitors to come along to Queen Mary with me. Some said I held the record for the most amount of food on a plate!

On one visit, the manager gave me a Queen Mary umbrella and a teddy bear, because I knew her so well from decades ago. I still treasure these two souvenirs. The teddy was recently photographed on the bridge of Queen Mary in Glasgow, and I never used the umbrella in case it got wet!

See also:

Queen Mary comes home — triumphant return to the Clyde in 2016 

On the Spot: Walter Bowie

Two days before Queen Mary returned from Greenock to Glasgow, Walter Bowie captured her at rest in the James Watt Dock

Under tow off Port Glasgow, on her way back up the River Clyde on Friday 28 June 2019

‘The morning sun was out. She looked lovely.’

Queen Mary passes under the Erskine Bridge, with Walter Bowie’s brother Hamish in the foreground

The beautiful lines of a classic Clyde-built turbine are seen to advantage here

Heading home

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Published on 1 July 2019.