QE2 delights home crowd as she pays final visit

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SHE was built in the shipyards of the Clyde, and yesterday the QE2 returned to her roots where thousands turned out to bid a fond farewell to the grand old lady of the seas.

Last night, the 70,000-tonne liner headed for Belfast and then the Firth of Forth, where she will birth on Tuesday.

Local residents, tourists and well-wishers yesterday climbed the Lyle Hill overlooking the river as the 963ft-long Cunard vessel was escorted into Greenock's Ocean Terminal by the Royal Navy frigate HMS Manchester, a tribute to the vessel's use as troop-carrier in the Falklands conflict.

Warm October sunshine provided a perfect setting for a party atmosphere that stretched the length of the waterfront. Stalls, music and the smell of barbecues greeted all ages who walked up and down the banks of the Clyde, while dozens of kayaks and yachts milled around the historic vessel.

The QE2, which was built by the John Brown shipyard at Clydebank, attracted lengthy queues throughout the afternoon of visitors eager to get into the Clydeport dockyards for a close-up look.

This last visit marks the end of an era that began 41 years ago and continues to be held as a symbol of the heyday of Clyde shipbuilding.

Walking along The Esplanade, 73-year-old Norman Harvey said the industry was an integral part of the area's history, and he was pleased that the QE2 would continue to live on, soon as a floating hotel in Dubai.

The former Scott Lithgow worker said: "Every time she comes back, she attracts the crowds. Modern cruise ships are nice, but they're squarish – they're not shipshape. The QE2 is a symbol for people."

Many of the smiling faces still lamented the loss of the shipyards that once crowded into every available space along the banks of the Clyde, many of the yards now giving way to housing developments and "regeneration".

Christine McLaughlin, 62, a Gourock resident, said: "A lot of people have fond memories of it. The QE2 means a lot to people."

The QE2 has clocked up more than 5.6 million nautical miles since her nerve-racking launch in the upper reaches of the Clyde, where careful calculations were made to ensure that there was enough room for the 70,237-tonne liner to slip into the water. Greenock is now as far as she can get up the Clyde, since dredging ended in 1990.

Myra Hunter, from Glasgow, travelled to Greenock to see the QE2 for the last time.

The retired teacher was a passenger on the 40th anniversary cruise around the UK in 2007, and she made a second trip earlier this year.

She said that seeing the QE2 sail up the Clyde was a special moment.

Ms Hunter said: "She came up with the sun shining on her, and it was absolutely magical."

She and five friends with whom she travelled on the QE2 met for a meal to mark the occasion.

Jordan Beckett, seven, from Greenock, said: "It's quite big and I think there's a lot of passengers. I wish I could build a boat like that someday. It's important because it's named after the Queen."

Greenock was the latest stop-off on a goodbye tour of the British Isles, before the ship heads for retirement in Dubai. She left Liverpool on Friday and will visit Belfast and Edinburgh, before arriving in her home port of Southampton next week.

She is due to arrive in Dubai on 27 November.


THE QE2 was sold last year in a 50.5 million deal to the Dubai government's investment arm for its final incarnation – as a floating hotel.

After a refit that will aim to recreate the original interior decor and fittings, the ship will be moored off the Palm Jumeirah development, the world's largest man-made island,

at a specially built pier. The QE2, which has carried some 2.5 million passengers since its maiden voyage in 1969, will provide hotel rooms, shopping and entertainment space. The resort is also set to feature a QE2 museum.

Fellow Cunard liner the Queen Mary became a floating hotel off Long Beach in California when it went out of service in 1967.

Gray in rescue drama as boat sinks

BROADCASTER and author Muriel Gray was caught up in a rescue drama yesterday after a boat watching the QE2 sail up the River Clyde sank.

Seven crew aboard the vessel were rescued by a passing MoD boat. Two children and five adults, including Gray and her husband, Hamish Balfour, were pictured on board the MoD vessel Diligence after a 25ft cabin cruiser started taking on water and sank.

The crew from the stricken boat were taken to the Customs Hall in Greenock, where they were checked over by ambulance crew.

The stricken vessel was later recovered by Strathclyde Police.

A spokesman for Clyde Coastguard said no-one had been injured in the incident.

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