Queen Mary steamer comes ‘home’ to Glasgow after 40 years

TS Queen Mary heads to Glasgow city centre  for the first time since 1977. PIC John Devlin/TSPL
TS Queen Mary heads to Glasgow city centre for the first time since 1977. PIC John Devlin/TSPL
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Every year, the TS Queen Mary transported thousands of people away from the grind of working life to the clean air and beautiful scenery found “Doon the Watter”.

It is no wonder that the vessel, which today sails into Glasgow city centre for the first time in almost 40 years, is held in such affection by so many.

The Queen Mary II pulls into Rothesay for a Highland Games weekend during the 1970s. PIC  Kenneth Whyte/ www.paddlesteamers.info

The Queen Mary II pulls into Rothesay for a Highland Games weekend during the 1970s. PIC Kenneth Whyte/ www.paddlesteamers.info

The steamer was the largest ever to sail out of Glasgow city centre with its passage west allowing the industrial backdrop of the shipyards to fall away, even just for a day, and bring the pretty shores of Dunoon, the palm trees of Bute and the peaks of the Isle of Arran into view as it ventured down the Firth of Clyde.

READ MORE: Campaign to save Glasgow’s maritime heritage

Today, the turbine steamer will berth in the Canting Basin at Glasgow Science Centre for the winter as trustees of the Friends of TS Queen Mary, lead by actor Robbie Coltrane, work to raise £2m to fully restore the vessel and turn it into an arts, culture and heritage attraction.

Charity Trustee Iain Sim said: “Glasgow Science Centre has been fantastic in offering us this berth, giving us a safe place to berth her over the winter months. We’re sure the people of Glasgow will look after her well and will be chuffed to have her back.”

Queen Mary II leave Bridge Warf at  Broomielaw, Glasgow for a May Day trip 'Doon the Watter'. PIC TSPL

Queen Mary II leave Bridge Warf at Broomielaw, Glasgow for a May Day trip 'Doon the Watter'. PIC TSPL

It will be the first time it has ventured into the city since 1977 with the voyage another major milestone in the history of the TS Queen Mary, which spent 20 years in London where it was used as a bar and restaurant near Waterloo Bridge.

Built in 1933, by Denny of Dumbarton and owned latterly by Caledonian MacBrayne, the steamer - today benefitting from a fresh paint job - was fitted out in the Art Deco style of the day with plenty of room both inside and out on deck.

READ MORE: Look up Glasgow - five hidden monuments of Scotland’s biggest city

Described in publicity of the day as “palatial”, she was the largest carrier on the Firth with room for just over 2,000 passengers.

Glasgow holidaymakers on board the Queen Mary II steamer take a trip down the River Clyde in July  PIC: TSPL

Glasgow holidaymakers on board the Queen Mary II steamer take a trip down the River Clyde in July PIC: TSPL

According to Gordon Stewart, author of paddlesteamers.info, her usual service was from Glasgow’s Bridge Wharf, next to Jamaica Street Bridge, to Dunoon and Rothesay, with non-landing trips to Arran and Skipness.

On Saturdays she sailed for Dunoon, Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute.

In 1935, the name of the steamer was changed to Queen Mary II on the request of the Cunard White Star Line who wanted the Queen Mary monicker for its transatlantic liner then being built at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank.

In 1976, the Clyde Steamer was renamed Queen Mary by Scots actor Roddy McMillan.

Day trippers and holiday makers arrive at Rothesay Pier.  PIC TSPL.

Day trippers and holiday makers arrive at Rothesay Pier. PIC TSPL.

Passenger trips on the Queen Mary steamer were halted during World War II as it operated the Gourock to Dunoon Ferry Service from March 1940 to May 1946.

Following the conflict’s end, the steamer had another 24 years on the water before it was moved to Gourock. Following the withdrawal of the PS Waverley from the water in 1973, the Queen Mary took on the role as the only operational Clyde Steamer.

The Waverley came back into service in 1975 amid major public support for its restoration, The last public sailing of the TS Queen Mary was on Monday September 12 1977 when it voyaged from Largs to Rothesay.

A plan by Glasgow City Council to turn the steamer into a museum did not deliver with the vessel sold to brewers Bass Charrington in 1987. An estimated £4.5m was spent on its renovation but the TS Queen Mary closed for businesses in January 2009 due to licensing issues.

After more failed plans to turn it into a floating hotel in France, the vessel was bought by the Friends of TS Queen Mary in October 2015 who brought the steamer to Greenock in May.

Due to arrive in Finnieston today (Wednesday), many believe the TS Queen Mary is finally heading back where she truly belongs.