History of the Queen Mary

TS Queen Mary, the former Clyde Turbine Steamer was built in 1933 by Messer's Denny of Dumbarton, Scotland. The 252 ft steamer operated day excursions in the Firth of Clyde until 1977. She was built for Williamson Buchanan Steamers Ltd., ownership passed over the years to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and eventually Caledonian MacBrayne. Operational life was on a wide variety of day excursions mostly from Glasgow and Gourock.

Queen Mary was the largest and the last vessel built to operate "all the way excursion sailings" from the heart Glasgow. Her passenger complement of 2086 (when built) made her the Firth’s largest carrier, and she had the largest gross tonnage (870 originally) of any on the river. No steamer of this standard had been built for the up river service, previously. As built she was a three class, comfortable and well appointed, two-funneled steamer, described in publicity material as “palatial”. Her usual service was from Glasgow departing Bridge Wharf (adjacent to Jamaica Street Bridge) to Dunoon and Rothesay, with non-landing excursions to Arran and Skipness. On Saturdays she sailed for Dunoon, Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute.

In the spring of 1935, at the request of Cunard White Star Line, TS Queen Mary was renamed Queen Mary II, so as to release the name Queen Mary for yard number 534, then under construction at John Brown’s shipyard, in Clydebank. Cunard presented a portrait of HRH Queen Mary to the ship in recognition of this gesture; the portrait was on public display in the ship’s observation lounge and latterly in the Queens Restaurant, during her operational life. The iconic three funnelled transatlantic liner effectively borrowed the name until 1976 when the Clyde Steamer was renamed Queen Mary by Scots actor Roddy McMillan. During the Second World War, the steamer operated the Gourock to Dunoon Ferry Service from 5th March 1940 to 10th May 1946.

Passenger sailings were resumed by Queen Mary II from Glasgow Bridge Wharf at 10:00am on 1st June 1946.

In 1957, the steamer's appearance changed dramatically when reboilered; she was fitted with a single well proportioned funnel. Many thought her appearance improved, whilst others found it difficult to resist preferences for her previous appearance.

Queen Mary II continued to sail daily from Glasgow, until 1970. She was then refitted to become the premier Clyde cruise steamer, and was based in Gourock. From 1971 to 1973 she undertook excursions throughout the Firth, along with the only other remaining Clyde steamer, the Paddle Steamer Waverley. PS Waverley was withdrawn after the 1973 season and Queen Mary II then was the only operational Clyde Steamer. A preserved Waverley re-emerged in 1975, with an attractive timetable, good publicity and a tremendous amount of goodwill and enthusiasm towards her operation. The massive support that Waverley attracted meant that in many respects the preservation of TS Queen Mary was overlooked.

TS Queen Mary's last public sailing was an evening showboat excursion from Largs and Rothesay, through the Kyles of Bute, on Monday 12th September 1977. The ship then was laid up in the East India Harbour Greenock from 1977 until 1981. She was sold by Caledonian MacBrayne to Glasgow District Council. The Council’s plans to incorporate the ship into a maritime museum failed and she was subsequently sold on to Euroyachts and Tessright. In January 1981 the ship was towed from the Clyde to King George V Dock London.

In 1987, brewers Bass Charrington acquired the ship to replace the former Clyde Steamer PS Caledonia, which it had successfully operated as a restaurant and bar on the Thames. TS Queen Mary was extensively refitted for this role. Her machinery was removed, her internal layout changed and two funnels put back. It is estimated that £2 million was spent on her conversion. In July 1988 the ship was towed up the Thames to her berth immediately, up river of Waterloo Bridge, and opened for business. For almost twenty years the ship was operated as a successful bar and restaurant complex. She was further refurbished in 1997 at an estimated cost of £2.5 million. TS Queen Mary closed for business in January 2009 when Westminster Council would not renew the lease for her berth, preferring instead to develop the area for water bus services. The ship was sold to a French consortium that had plans to convert her for use as a floating hotel, in La Rochelle. The ship was towed from London to Tilbury, in November 2009. The plans fell through and the ship was sold again in September 2011 to a private buyer, Ranjan Chowdhury.

TS Queen Mary was arrested by the Port of Tilbury, in July 2015, due to non-payment of berthing dues. Friends of TS Queen Mary tendered a bid for the ship, and was announced as the preferred bidder in August 2015. On 18th August 2015, TS Queen Mary was visited by representatives from Ferguson Marine, V Ships and the MCA, and was extensively examined. The ship was found to be in remarkably good condition, and Friends of TS Queen Mary were then able to complete a bill of sale, taking the ship into the hands of a dedicated Charity for the first time in her life.

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