It is the Dumbarton-built ship which became known as Britain’s finest pleasure steamer and once carried King George VI and the Queen Mother.
The historic 90-year-old TS Queen Mary once carried 13,000 passengers a week in her heydey and became a lifeline for Scotland’s island communities at the outbreak of World War Two.
Her place as a national treasure was secured in 1996 when she was listed on the United Kingdom’s official historical ships register and is seen as the last of her kind in the world.
Now there are real hopes that the much-loved iconic Clyde steamer will sail again – with campaigners revealing they hope that it can double as a cruise ship around the UK and a floating college.
An anonymous benefactor
What is the last steamer to be built on the Clyde will aim to give cadets and apprentices in Scotland experience initially of hospitality but also in all aspects of ship life – from engineering and deck officer duties to plumbing.
It comes as the campaign received a £1 million boost from an anonymous benefactor in its biggest ever single donation.
The charity Friends of TS Queen Mary – currently berthed at Pacific Quay in Glasgow – which is overseeing the restoration say they want to have it sailing once again within the next few years.
And they say the “astonishing gift” would “turbo-charge” their efforts to ensure that the vessel will sail again.
It has originally been planned that the vessel, which returned to Glasgow for the first time since 1977 in November 2016, would become a static heritage centre at Pacific Quay, next to the city’s Science Centre.
But Iain Sim, chairman of Friends of TS Queen Mary said that the restoration plan aims to repurpose the ship for cruises as well as providing a learning platform for Scots.
It has already provided experience to 300 cadets and apprentices principally from the City of Glasgow College.
There is now a memo of understanding with the college for the vessel to take cadets to gain hospitality, travel, tourism, officer and engineering skills working alongside a professional crew.
“She has to be a people’s ship and be inclusive,” he said. “We wanted to do something different. We want to repurpose her, not just a ship that offers cruises but to give an extra dimension to it.
“Ultimately the potential is limitless. The first students that come on board will be hospitality students. “The ambition is that over the years she will welcome students and cadets from all marine disciplines.
“It is a worthy ambition.”
He said the cruises would be offered on the vessel, which will accommodate 400 people, around the Clyde, Western Isles and in general around British coastal waters. “We want to make it widely available as possible, so that anyone can afford to go on a cruise on the Queen Mary, which is one of the last of the turbine steamers.
The cash windfall takes the fundraising total, made up of generous individual donations and corporate contributions, to £4.8m – virtually half way to the anticipated £10m total cost.
The money will be used to construct new steel decks to ensure the ship complies with modern maritime safety requirements – one of the biggest structural undertakings of the ongoing work.
Mr Sim added: “We are overwhelmed by the generosity of this individual. It delivers a massive boost to our fundraising endeavour which has caught the public mood across Britain and around the world.
“The individual who made such a substantial cash gift wishes to remain anonymous and we, of course, respect that request. But to say we are over the moon is putting it mildly “Our work continues to restore an iconic British ship whose proud history serving the Clyde rekindles many memories for tens of thousands of Scots and others across the world. We want to say to this most generous benefactor: thanks a million!”
Originally built in 1933 by shipbuilders William Denny, she was built through a unique design – and broke the mould of using design templates to create several vessels.
When she was ordered it was a first – and no further ship order was placed for the same or similar design She was affectionately known as the Glasgow Boat, as it sailed daily from Broomielaw and ‘doon the watter’ from to destinations such as Dunoon, Rothesay, Millport and Arran.
In the spring of 1935, at the request of Cunard White Star Line, TS Queen Mary was renamed Queen Mary II. That allowed the release of the name Queen Mary for the liner then under construction at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank.
During the Second World War it helped maintain vital passenger and freight services between the mainland and the islands while other vessels were commandeered to sweep for mines or used in other military roles.
During the war it also carried King George VI, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
The ship was eventually retired in 1977 as cars became more affordable and holiday choices changed and spent several years as a floating restaurant on the Thames.
TS Queen Mary could have ended her days rusting in the English port of Tilbury but was rescued by the charity and towed back to the Clyde in an epic voyage along the west coast of the UK arriving back in 2015.
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Source: The Herald