About TS Queen Mary

In 1932, Williamson-Buchanan Steamers Ltd placed an order for a new vessel with William Denny and Bros Ltd, of Dumbarton. The ship was to be the largest and most luxuriously appointed pleasure steamer in the country.

At Denny’s, the ship was allocated yard number 1262, and no time was wasted in getting started. Denny’s completed the designs and hull within two months of the order, and such was the speed of the build that there was insufficient time to construct a builder’s model of the ship!

With the consent of Her Majesty The Queen, the name Queen Mary was assigned to the new ship, and on 30thMarch 1933 she took to the water for the first time.

Fitting out was achieved within six weeks, and on 15thMay Queen Mary undertook trials off the Skelmorlie measured mile, achieving a top speed of 19.7 knots.

Queen Mary’s original certificate allowed her to carry an astonishing 2,086 passengers (later reduced to 1,820), but even then her popularity was so great that she often struggled to keep up with demand on her regular service runs to the Kyles of Bute and the Isle of Arran.

In 1936, Queen Mary’s owners agreed to add the suffix “II” to her name, as a favour to Cunard Line.

The lore surrounding how Cunard’s Hull 534 received the name Queen Mary has a common premise. Representatives of Cunard-White Star had an audience with the King and the most awkward misunderstanding ensued.

Cunard-White Star – or so the story goes – wished to obtain Royal consent to name their new ship Queen Victoria. During the audience with the King, they asked if they could name the vessel after “England’s greatest Queen,” at which point the King replied, “My wife would be delighted!”

As a token of appreciation, and with Her Majesty’s approval, Cunard-White Star purchased and presented Williamson- Buchanan with an official watercolour portrait of Her Majesty by artist Arthur Trevethin Nowell.

When war came in the autumn of 1939, Queen Mary remained in Scotland to help provide lifeline services. She also acted as a troopship tender for liners, such as Queen Elizabeth, Aquitania and – of course – RMS Queen Mary.

In June 1942, Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth sailed aboard TS Queen Mary from Glasgow’s Bridge Wharf.In the November of that same year, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt – the longest serving First Lady of the United States – also sailed aboard, as part of her goodwill tour of the British Homefront. Amongst the dignitaries accompanying Mrs. Roosevelt on board was the world-famous entertainer, Sir Harry Lauder – a favourite of the First Lady.

After the war, Queen Mary returned to civilian service, but still remained a favourite of the establishment, with famous guests including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Princess Elizabeth, The Princess Margaret and Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery.

With the advent of affordable air travel and package holidays in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the domestic holiday market contracted, and by 1973 only two cruise ships remained in the fleet. With another wave of austerity hitting the country in the early 1970’s, Queen Mary then owners chose to keep her in service.

1977 was TS Queen Mary’s Silver Jubilee year. However, the season was not as successful as had been hoped, and the harsh economics of the time resulted in Queen Mary finally being withdrawn from service.

Queen Mary was initially sold to Glasgow District Council, in 1978. A lack of public funding resulted in her being sold and taken to London’s King George V dock.

Once on the Thames, she was gradually stripped of her fixtures, fittings and engines. The project stalled, and Queen Mary was again laid up for another six years, before Bass Charrington purchased her. That company refitted her in Chatham Docks, at a cost of £2M, as a floating pub and restaurant, opening her at Waterloo Bridge in 1988.

Whilst Queen Mary was a Thames favourite for two decades, her berth was a coveted prime site. She closed for business in January 2009 and eventually was sold to a private buyer. Regrettably, between 2011 and 2015, the new owner’s plans were never realised, and the situation for Queen Mary became increasingly dire.

By 2015, the deterioration was marked, and the likelihood of the ship being scrapped was all too real – especially when the Port of Tilbury arrested the vessel for non-payment of berthing dues.

As the once magnificent steamer faced an ignominious end, Friends of TS Queen Mary stepped in and saved her from the breaker’s torch at the eleventh hour.

Following a successful campaign that raised over £100,000, in May 2016 Queen Mary returned home to Scotland. The Charity then raised £350,000 to enable the ship to be dry-docked.

At the turn of 2017 the long and arduous task of taking Queen Mary back to bare metal started. This involved over 300 cadets and 50 volunteers over a two-year period. It took an estimated 11,000 hours to complete and saved the charity almost £230,000.

In December 2018 the Charity was deeply honoured when Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal very graciously agreed to become its Royal Patron. Her Royal Highness is well known for having a strong interest in ships, and of course Queen Marywas named after her grandmother!

Since the, the support offered by Her Royal Highness has been instrumental in driving the project forward.

In June 2019 Queen Mary was again dry-docked so that she could be laser scanned, surveyed by the regulators and fully repainted. This project alone cost some £400,000. A feasibility report was then prepared by the Charity’s marine consultants, which mapped out a pathway to return Queen Maryto service.

2020 started with the excellent news that the Charity had secured almost £400,000 in funding to complete all of the design work that would be required.

By 2022 that work had been completed and the feedback was such that the Charity had real confidence that Queen Mary (subject to funding) would be able to sail again.

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Queen Mary on 11thMarch 2022, to tour the ship and to see the restoration work, first hand. That afternoon, Her Royal Highness delivered a keynote address during which it was announced that the intention of the Charity would be to return Queen Mary to service.

Robbie Coltrane OBE (our much loved patron) was in attendance, that day. He said:

“I always dared to say that we could put engines back in her and sail her down the Clyde like she did in 1933. I believed it could be done, and I believed that it should be done. TS Queen Mary is as relevant in the 21st Century as she was almost 90 years ago. Now she is coming back to reclaim her throne.”

Following this announcement, the famous actor Sam Neill OBE agreed to serve as the Charity’s Commonwealth Patron.

2023 marked Queen Mary’s 90th anniversary, and Her Royal Highness started the celebrations at a very special event on 9th February.

Shortly after, a benefactor stepped forward with a magnificent donation of £1M pounds, to fund the next phase of the project. Over the next 12 months the timber decks on each of the boat deck, promenade deck and main deck will be lifted, and new steel decks fabricated and fitted.

221 windows and portholes will be removed for refurbishment or renewal, and almost 2,600m2 of insulation will be fitted.

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