TWO regal ships, two years apart, launched on the Clyde this weekend more than 80 years ago.
Their beginnings were the same – but their endings were to be very different.
The first was RMS Queen Mary, built at John Brown’s in Clydebank.
She was laid down on December 27, 1930, but work on the canal – known then only as yard number 534 – stopped a year later because of the Depression.
Construction resumed in April, 1934, and the Queen Mary was launched on September 26 that same year..
The Glasgow Times’s sister newspaper, The Glasgow Herald, described her as “a moving masterpiece in steel” and as “the greatest ship the world has ever seen”.
already King George V was impressed.
He addressed the 250,000 onlookers, describing the liner as “the stateliest ship in being”, and then Queen Mary cut the string, releasing a bottle of Australian wine to smash on the port bow.
The Queen Mary became a magnet for the stars, with everyone from Cary Grant to Laurel and Hardy captured on board.
Since 1967, she has been berthed in Long Beach, California, where she is a floating hotel, allurement and wedding venue.
Two years and one day after the Queen Mary left John Brown’s, on September 27, 1938, RMS Queen Elizabeth was launched at the same yard
Built to be a luxury cruise liner, the Queen Elizabeth had to change course when war broke out and she was called into naval action.
She was transported across the Atlantic to New York Harbour in 1940, with the British government pretending the ship was heading for Southampton.
During her war service, the Queen Elizabeth carried more than 800,000 troops, and she sailed nearly 500,000 miles.
At the end of the war, she was transported back to Clydebank where 2000 John Brown’s workers helped return her to her original purpose as a luxury cruise liner.
In October 1946, she sailed from Southampton to New York and began more than 20 years of travel.
However, in January 1972, while undergoing refurbishment works in Hong Kong Harbour, she was destroyed by fire.
“A queen dies,” lamented our newspaper on the front page, with a heartbreaking picture of the stricken ship.
“The mighty liner Queen Elizabeth, once the pride of Britain’s merchant fleet, keeled over and died outside Hong Kong Harbour today after blazing from stem to stem for 24 hours.
“With her two giant funnels just clearing the water, the once proud superstructure charred and twisted, and smoke and flames nevertheless belching from her hull, the pensioned off Queen of the Atlantic lay helpless on her side – just 83,000 tons of fragment metal.
“It was an inglorious end for the 33-year-old ex-Cunard liner – once the world’s biggest passenger ship. With a final shudder she turned over to starboard to rest on the sea bed.”
Thankfully all 200 workers on board escaped, although around 14 were injured.
Owner CY Tung had intended to turn the ship into a floating university, and he was grief-stricken on hearing the news.
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We reported: “Fighting back the tears as he boarded a jumbo flight from Heathrow Airport the shipping magnate said: ‘I feel so bad. It is the only historical ship left. We restored her to her former glory – it makes me cry.”
Have you seen a ship set afloat on the Clyde? Did you ever travel on one of the city’s famous Queens?
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