The recent return of the Denny-built turbine steamer Queen Mary to her home waters on the Clyde has brought back into focus the rich history of a ship, launched in 1933, that spent most of her life carrying crowds of Glaswegians ‘doon the watter’ to Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute.
No one is better qualified to tell the story of this steamer, and her daily routine at the height of the postwar era, than Richard Orr. During his student summers in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he served as Purser on board Queen Mary and kept a colourful diary of the goings-on that made life on board so memorable. As a member of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company’s fleet of Clyde steamers, she had a single funnel (instead of two prior to reboilering in 1957) and it was painted yellow. At that time she was known as Queen Mary II: the suffix had been adopted at the request of the Cunard Line in 1935, when their soon-to-be-launched transatlantic liner lay on the stocks at Clydebank.
“Aboard Queen Mary II: A Purser’s Life on the Glasgow Boat” paints a detailed portrait not only of crew members and their antics, but of the challenges of dealing with the thousands of holidaymakers who escaped the city for a day on the Firth of Clyde. For Richard Orr, the ‘Mary’ was the ultimate Clyde passenger steamer. His pride in her shines through every page.
CRSC is selling this beautifully illustrated 422-page paperback at the bargain price of £17.95 post free. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the illustrious past of a ship whose future on Clydeside, so long in doubt, now seems secure.