|Home||Pauline||Howto Articles||Uniquely NZ||Small Firms||Search|
|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2007
The 40th Anniversary Cruise
This was by far the most memorable of our trips on the QE2; it was not only a journey round Great Britain but a nostalgic and often emotional trip in time commemorating the 40th anniversary of the World's Greatest Liner, the triumphant climax of an outstanding tradition for safety and elegance built up by Cunard. It was a lap of honour visiting not only her birthplace but the roots from which the Cunard tradition grew over 168 years. It rapidly became clear that she has also worked her way into the hearts of the nation and wherever we went we were welcomed by huge crowds, regardless of the weather and time of day. Flotillas of small boats met us and escorted us out, the tugs led with water jets and fireworks greeted us and celebrated our departures.
We had a display from the Red Arrows on her birthday and the ships whistle was sounded for 40 seconds at the exact time she entered the water 40 years earlier. Pipe bands played as we sailed away from the docksides and the waving of Union Jacks was a norm rather than an exception. Local papers produced supplements and glossy commemorative brochures for every port of call which were delivered to our cabins.
The concert/service in Liverpool Cathedral had the one of the largest public buildings in the world packed seeing thousands of people standing waving Union Jacks and singing Rule Britannia was too much for many – it even looked as if the Master of QE2 was close to being overcome by the raw emotion and the knowledge that his pride and joy would shortly be taken out of service. Only the very best was good enough throughout this trip and that concert was perhaps the highlight with Lesley Garrett, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir and The Band of the Scots Guards.
Cunard themselves were not to be outshone by our hosts at the ports. Every dinner had commemorative menus covering the history of the ship and of the Cunard line and everybody was given a copy of Carol Thatchers new book on the QE2 which everybody wanted her to sign. The queues at one point went almost round the ship and that is a long way. As well as the receptions for the great and famous visitors at every port there were the usual Captain's cocktail parties, the additional receptions for 'Cunard Club' members could not take place as too many of the passengers were regulars. We often felt newcomers having done less than 20 cruises on her.
So why is she so famous and loved by so many? She is the last true ocean liner built to run scheduled services across the Atlantic to a timetable regardless of time of year and weather. She is faster now than when she was built and faster than any other merchant ship in operation and has proven herself by completing far more distance than any other ship built, over 5.6 million miles. She served in the Falklands War for the country and within the Cunard fleet has served longer, traveled further and visited more places. But that is not all – to those who have traveled on her she is home.
Today we were in transit in Southampton between two cruises, and it was the first public day of the Southampton Boat Show. We had a leisurely second sitting breakfast at 0815 in the Mauretania restaurant, while most other people were rushing off with their luggage. Our senior waiter, Omar, was leaving today to go home on shore leave. We knew we would have the same table for the next cruise, number 203 by the window forward starboard side. We were staying in the same cabin too, so there were no worries about packing and unpacking. Even if we had to move then the stewards are very good and would have organised everything. We walked off the ship, then waited for the crew shuttle bus. The first bus arrived at 1000 and the driver said it was going to run all day, every half hour. We tried to look like crew, and met one of our waiters and chatted. Passengers do not normally travel on the crew shuttle bus but that was all that was available.
The bus dropped us by the main entrance to the Boat Show, just by Marks and Spencers. It was perfect, but we had arranged to pick up tickets from the Linssen stand, and so we had to walk back to the Red Funnel gate to meet James who had our tickets. We liked the two Linssen cruisers which were on the water; our friends Dugald and Lesley have one on order for 2008 and they had asked James to show us the boats. Early in the morning it was quiet and we also looked at a few sailing boats, visited the Shetland stand to see the new version of our old Shetland 535 (special price of £9,999 without engine) and browsed through the various shops and chandlers. Pauline wanted to buy some stick-on wall covering to smarten our Shetland but the cheap offcuts were too small. We have work to do in the winter on Corinna which must take priority, including replacing the seating in the saloon. Here we found a really nice wooden glider chair, like a rocking chair but with a sliding motion. Unfortunately the price was close to £500 each, but it was very comfortable. We picked up a brochure; the same company also did expensive hardwood storage benches. All the useful shops were in the Southampton area so we can follow them up at our leisure later.
Having walked too much we were ready to go back onboard. We just missed one shuttle bus so knew there would be a 30 minute wait, but it would be slower to walk back. The entry at Dock Gate 4 is still a long walk from the QE2 gangway. The 'All Aboard' time was published as 1630, but we wanted to be back before 1600 so that we were in time for afternoon tea. We had missed lunch today, as we usually did when on shore, and so we had an appetite with which to enjoy the White Star service for afternoon tea in the Queens Room. Passenger emergency drill for new passengers was at 1615 and although we did not have to attend it meant that all passenger services, even tea and coffee, ceased until the drill was over.
As we returned at 1530 we joined embarking passengers, and were forced to take the lift to embarkation instead of the usual stairs. There had been a special celebration on QE2 at lunch time, including local dignitaries, Baroness Thatcher and her daughter Carol, Terry Waite and many past Cunard staff including all but one of the past captains. All the invited guests were leaving as we arrived back, and we spoke to Terry Waite as he passed us waiting in line for the lift. Having prevented embarking passengers from passing through the main lounge because of the disembarking celebrities it seemed a mistake to then force everyone to push their way down a narrow corridor together.
There was the usual row of waiters to help show people to their staterooms at the donut rotunda on 2 Deck, and we were welcomed by Lloyd who had been our waiter on the World Cruise earlier. He had just got back from shore leave. Then we got to our cabin and found a vase of red roses, a display of cut flowers, 1 bottle of sparkling wine and 2 bottles of Champagne , and a big bowl of fresh fruit. It was a repeat of the gifts to celebrate our Wedding Anniversary but this time we think it was to celebrate Pauline's birthday. We were delighted and went back upstairs to thank the Hotel Manager, John Duffy, who we have come to know over the years. He is now the longest serving officer and has been Hotel Manager for over twenty five years having been the youngest four stripe officer in the history of Cunard.
We were also pleased that Ian McNaught was to be Captain on the voyage, replacing David Perkins who had been Captain for the previous cruise. We have known Ian from many previous cruises and he is a favourite with everyone on board. This cruise was going to be very different to our 2007 World Cruise; of the 1,682 passengers there were 1,475 from the UK and just 107 from the USA.
After the emergency drill it was time to raise the gangway and set sail. The Band of the Royal Marines started to play on the dockside at 1640, and continued until our ropes were off and we were gently eased away by the tugs. It was going to be a special cruise, and the bow was sprayed with water from the traditional water canons on the tugs as they led us out. We usually don't watch the departure from Southampton because Pauline is buried in unpacking suitcases so it was nice this time to join the Sailaway Party in the Funnel Bar sipping our favourite Mai Tai cocktail and listening to the music of the Caribbean band. We noticed the two Carol's (Thatcher and Marlow) in deep conversation over a bottle of wine. More about them later!
Dining late, at 2030, we were delighted to find Lloyd had been assigned to our area as senior waiter. We had mentioned his name to Phil, the Assistant Maitre D', and we know that QE2 staff try hard to respond to passenger preferences. Nevertheless, this was beyond our expectations. Lloyd was very pleased to see us, and we have said in the past that he is the best waiter in the Mauretania . He remembered without prompting that we liked rare steaks and decaffeinated coffee in the evening. It promises to be a perfect cruise.
Our first port was to be Newcastle , on the River Tyne, and it was a maiden visit. Although the QE2 had never been there before some of Cunard's most notable ships were built there, including the Laconia II which was the first ever to sail a World Cruise, the Carpathia which was famous for the rescue of Titanic survivors and the famous Mauretania . It would be the 100th anniversary of Mauretania's departure from the Tyne for her first sea trials on 17 September. We steamed steadily north and were scheduled to reach the mouth of the River Tyne to be greeted at 1630, embark the pilot and proceed through the breakwaters and be turned and alongside the berth at 1830.
Approaching Newcastle we passed Flamborough Head on schedule at 1115. We expected a rocket to be fired off the Head to mark our passing but did not see anything, although there were a number of small boats out to welcome us. Just after noon we passed Scarborough South Bay , where Sir Jimmy Savile came across by boat and was embarked through the door usually reserved for collecting the pilot. The sea was choppy and for several moments everyone wondered whether he would be able to make the leap across. He did so, with help. We hope we will be equally fit when we are 80 years old. He has a special relationship with Cunard; the Queen Mary 2 has visited Scarborough at his invitation and the QE2 is a firm favourite. There are many famous people who are QE2 enthusiasts.
The extra time needed to collect Sir Jimmy meant that we entered the mouth of the River Tyne a few minutes late. The sea had remained choppy and the wind had increased to a gusty thirty knots. The Captain very much wanted to enter the River Tyne, but not if was unsafe as the port authorities were advising. We waited outside until the Captain and the pilot were finally agreed that we could enter and finally made it on our third attempt.As the evening approached the wind decreased, and it was in failing light that we were finally greeted. Everyone on the shore had waited for us. We were met with music from a Northumbrian piper, and a fireworks display with water jets and red flares and red paper confetti so that QE2 seemed to arrive on a red carpet. The six hundred children who had been waiting for us had been stood down, but there were many tens of thousands of people on the shore on both sides of the river, many waving Union Jacks or with banners on their houses.
QE2 docked in North Shields at Tyne Commission Quay which was renamed Northumbrian Quay by Captain Ian McNaught on arrival. A maiden visit is always very special, and Captain Ian McNaught was local. He was born in Sunderland and his son is studying at Newcastle University . QE2 was staying overnight, and that gave the opportunity for serious celebrations and a special lunch tomorrow in the Mauretania restaurant for invited guests. It meant a busy schedule for him and his senior staff, and for Carol Marlow (the President and Managing Director of Cunard).
North Shields, where we moored, is some distance from Newcastle and a complimentary shuttle service was provided to Royal Quays Shopping Outlet and Percy Main Metro Station. The Tour Office also organised a coach, for $49 per person, to go directly from QE2 to Newcastle . We find public transport is more fun and cheaper, so we took the shuttle bus to the Metro and then paid £2.30 each for a return ticket to Newcastle . We had lots of small change so it was easy to purchase our Metro tickets, and we found no queues at the pay-station on the 'wrong' platform whilst they stretched out of the station the other side. The Metro does a circular routing and we went to Newcastle via the coast at Whitley Bay and then came back more directly. It did not seem to matter for our ticket, and gave the chance to see the beach in the rain.
We emerged at Monument station, in the main shopping area and next to Fenwick's Department Store. Earl Grey, a past Prime Minister best known for naming the blend of tea, has his monument here - a statue on the top of a substantial pillar. All the buildings in Newcastle are substantial. It was then all downhill to the River Tyne. The bridges between Newcastle and Gateshead are famous, and there is a new Millennium bridge which is opened two or three times each day. It is unusual because it is the worlds first tilting bridge. We were too early for the 1245 opening, but decide to stay in the area and wait. On the Gateshead side of the Tyne we visited the Centre for Contemporary Art, in the old Baltic Mill, where there are excellent views of the bridges from the top floors. Then we went next door to visit the Sage Gateshead, an enormous modern music and arts centre, opened in 2004 and designed by Norman Foster. One of its three performance halls is the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, who were in the news at the time we visited.
After seeing the Millennium bridge raise and lower we crossed it to return to Newcastle . On our way back to the QE2 we visited the Castle Keep and Black Gate. Founded in 1168 by Henry I there is a small entrance charge for the castle. We were warned there was a lot of climbing to reach the Great Hall and explore the many small rooms and galleries. The climb to the roof was worth the effort with good views along the River Tyne and towards Newcastle. Finally we went downstairs to visit the chapel with its exquisite stone detail. As we were leaving it began to rain again. Fortunately St Nicholas Cathedral, with its landmark Crown Spire, was nearby. We were lucky and caught the end of a lunchtime organ recital, by Paul Trepte of Ely cathedral. The Harris organ, supplied in 1676, has been rebuilt and repaired on several occasions, most recently in 1982, using the original Harris case. Everywhere we went we met local people who wanted to know more about the QE2, and what it was like on board. Many we met had waited in the wind and rain for our arrival the previous evening and some had come to stay in Newcastle just to great us.
The rain encouraged us to go back to QE2 early. Having missed lunch we settled for afternoon tea in the Queens Room, with the usual delicate sandwiches, cakes and scones. The gangway was raised at 1730, but the QE2 as facing the wrong way and had to continue up the River Tyne until there was the width and depth to turn. Because it was the first visit, everyone wondered whether it would be easy, and together with lots of other passengers we went up on deck to watch. The tugs did an excellent job, and we turned with space to spare, although it was quite tight. It would have been easier without a freighter moored on the corner we were using, and there was spontaneous applause when we were around successfully. Many people were waiting to see us leave, and there were more fireworks as we approached the breakwaters where a few people were huddled under the sea walls despite the waves breaking right over the walls. We stayed outside watching until it was dark.
Captain Ian McNaught had had a busy day, hosting lunch for visitors in the Mauretania restaurant, then leaving North Shields for the first time, and finally he was hosting a cocktail party in the evening for guests in the three Grill restaurants. Fortunately it was only 173 nautical miles from North Shields to our next port, South Queensferry near Edinburgh .
We anchored off South Queensferry in the early morning, within sight of the famous Forth Railway Bridge.
The first organised tours were due to depart at 0800 and several tenders were in the water, as well as a local boat. We were in no hurry to disembark, and waited until the tours and queues had gone. There are not many shops in South Queensferry and we pounced on a large Delsey suitcase with wheels in the only charity shop. We had been given books and souvenir newspaper articles at every port, and had bought lots of other books on board. We already had too much to pack in our luggage and we were less than halfway through the cruise. We walked along the waterfront, admired the little Priory Church of St Mary, browsed the handful of remaining shops, and then returned for an early lunch.
Many others climbed the hill to the railway station at Dalmeny and spent the day in Edinburgh . Trains are every 20 minutes with a journey time of 15 minutes, and cost just over £3. There were buses too, but it was a slower journey. Either was much cheaper than the organised tour costing $64, but there are risks. It is always more difficult to explore independently when the ship is at anchor, because it takes so much longer to disembark, and this increases the risks of being late back.
We heard there was a little supermarket, a Coop, so set off again into South Queensferry after lunch. We purchased the yogurt drinks which lower cholesterol, and looked in a few antique shops before catching a tender back for afternoon tea. We had already seen the new book by Carol Thatcher, 'QE2 Forty Years Famous' in the QE2 bookshop on the previous cruise. We had not purchased a copy then, and were delighted when a free copy had been given to everyone, left in their cabin last night. This meant that there were hundreds of passengers who joined the line outside the Bookshop at 1630 this afternoon, for Carol to sign their books. After several hours the queue was still very long and tickets were given out so that those who had been waiting got priority the next day when there was an additional Book Signing ceremony.
The last tender was at 1700 and it took some time to get the tenders back into position, and raise the embarkation platforms. Then it was simple to raise the anchor and head north. The Inchcolm Ferry 'Maid of the Forth ' had been used to supplement our tenders, and we had used it once. It usually offers cruises from April to October to visit the island of Inchcolm to visit the Abbey and admire the sealife there - seals, puffins, and sometimes dolphins and porpoises. We passed close to Inchcolm as we headed out down the Firth towards the North Sea, and around the tip of Scotland .
It is 606 nautical miles from South Queensferry to our next port of Greenock and we would be transiting the notorious Pentland Forth in the early morning. Turning on the TV to look at the bridge VideoCam there appeared to be a heavy sea with water sloshing over the bows. Our cabin was on 4 Deck and in the middle of the ship, near the D staircase, and we felt nothing unusual. When we got up to breakfast it was clear that we had been looking at a recording of previous weather in the North Atlantic, not actual conditions. Usually that joke is only played on passengers on 1 April.
There was a lot to do today, with lectures by Carol Thatcher, Commodore Ron Warwick and Maureen Ryan. We had met Carol on the world cruise and knew she was, like us, an enthusiast for the QE2. She also gives very entertaining lectures and it was standing room only in the Theatre, even in the Theatre Gallery which is our favourite area. Fortunately the lecture was recorded and we could see it again later in the comfort of our cabin. We had priority tickets for her Book Signing after lunch, and she remembered we had visited New Zealand . Her father had roots in Wanganui. We had seen Commodore Warwick and his wife Kim around the ship, and had cruised with them many times before his retirement. Maureen Ryan we also knew; she is the only person alive who has served on all four Queens : Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, QE2 and QM2. We first met her as part of the Cruise Staff on the Cunard Countess 15 years ago.
This was also the first day at sea, and according to tradition was the first Formal night. It was also the evening when Captain Ian McNaught hosted a cocktail party for those eating in the Mauretania restaurant. He remembered us from previous cruises and wished me a Happy Birthday for the following day.
It was at the John Brown shipyard on the River Clyde on 20th September 1967 at 1428 that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II named the ship Queen Elizabeth the Second.
It was Pauline's birthday too and she started the day by opening her enormous birthday card and standing it on the table in the restaurant at breakfast. The rest of the day she wore a pink rosette proclaiming it was her birthday, and so met a lot of new friends.
We arrived at the Greenock Ocean Terminal to be welcomed by a Scots bagpiper. It was at Greenock , at the Inchgreen dry Dock, that QE2 was prepared for sea trials, eventually leaving on 17 December 1968.The John Brown shipyard is further down the River Clyde. There was a special 'First Day Cover' sold on board, which commemorated the 40th birthday, and included the 5d stamp issued in 1969. We went into the town looking for the Post Office to purchase more stamps at a better price but found it was a special issues by Buckingham Covers, and was not generally available. Greenock is a large town, about the size of Lichfield , and all the shops had displays to welcome the QE2. The cake shop had made a cake the shape of the ship and their staff were dressed up as sailors.
We enjoyed our short visit to the shopping centre but we had to be back on board before 1200. The Red Arrows were coming at 1215 to give an aerial display. We hoped the weather would improve, and we were lucky. There were many special invited guests who had the area above the Lido for their private viewing. Pauline stayed down by the Pavilion with the camera and telephoto lens whereas Peter went up to the Funnel Bar with the video. They put on an excellent show despite the low cloud-base and turbulent conditions - it seemed odd to be looking down on them from the old helicopter deck. We noticed there were only 8 aircraft instead of the usual 9, and some of the formal displays were lopsided, but no-one minded.
Many boats came to see us and enjoy the display, and we were surprised to see the vintage cruiser Balmoral. Balmoral was built in Southampton in 1949, so is much older than the QE2 yet still manages a full schedule of coastal cruises, operating in support of the paddle steamer Waverley which was the last Clyde paddler, herself built in Glasgow in 1947. We had seen both ships in Bristol previously, and they also cruise along the south coast and the tidal River Thames. Both are included in the National Register of Historic Vessels. Unfortunately for the QE2 only vessels over 50 years old are eligible to join the register, and we will have to wait and see what happens to her between now and 2017.
The Mauretania restaurant was closed for lunch because it was being used to entertain visitors, many of them old employees of the John Brown shipyard, so we went to the Caronia restaurant. Although it opened at 1300 we had still only just finished our starter and main course by 1355 with no sign of desserts or coffee, so we walked out and completed our meal in the self-service Lido just in time for the next 'event'. It had been announced that the ships whistle was going to be sounded at 1428, and sound for 40 seconds to match the 40 years since she was launched. We wanted to have completed our lunch and be standing outside to listen. Although described as a 'whistle' on the QE2 it is a mellow horn sound and is a most distinctive and famous sound.
Our stewardess, Nataliya, had been acting strangely during the morning and once we heard a gentle hissing sound from our cabin. It was now clear what had been happening. Our cabin door was covered in coloured balloons, and inside she had made a rabbit using two of the towels. It was a delightful birthday gesture, and so unexpected. We thanked her and then took a short walk along the waterfront Esplanade to see the stalls and displays. It was very wet and we soon got soaked and were glad to return.
All aboard was at 1730, with departure planned at 1800. A pipe band played on the dockside, and a vintage fire engine ran up and down with its siren, trying to mimic the whistle from the QE2 We stood on the open decks and were joined by Sir Jimmy Savile, and peered over to enjoy the celebrations, in spite of the rain.
In spite of being in port today the dress code for this evening was Formal. The 40th anniversary day is special, and everyone was going to be dressed formally anyway, whether or not the Captain made it compulsory. On each cruise there is always a Gala Midnight Buffet and it was appropriate that tonight was the evening chosen. In addition on the same evening there is a special menu with the traditional Baked Alaska parade and fireworks. To add to all these calories, Pauline was presented with her birthday cake and everyone sang 'Happy Birthday'. The chocolate cake and baked alaska go well together.
Our next port was Liverpool , just 215 nautical miles south. It had been intended that the QE2 would undertake a high-speed, measured mile during the cruise, and the Glasgow Herald reported that it would take place this evening off the Isle of Arran, in the same place as when it formed part of the ship's original sea trials back in 1968. Unfortunately it did not take place. We had heard that a previous high-speed run had been done without passengers, and that it was not very comfortable with shaking and juddering. As would be expected. We guessed there might have been difficulties although we had no chance to chat to the engineers. Certainly better weather and flatter seas would have been nice.
2007 is the city of Liverpool 's 800th birthday year. QE2 arrived this morning at the new cruise terminal and so was the first vessel alongside. The opening ceremony would be carried out later in the morning by HRH The Duke of Kent. We waited in the hope it would stop raining but then decided to go ashore anyway. When we finally disembarked there were lots of important visitors being welcomed with a glass of Champagne in the terminal building before being welcomed at a reception on board QE2. It was a contrast to our experiences at the opening of the Dubai International Cruise Terminal at which QE2 officiated during her World Cruise in 2001. Then there were soft drinks and passengers were encouraged to take part in the ceremony. The weather in Dubai was also much better!
It had been many years since Pauline had been to Liverpool on business and she recognised the famous Royal Liver building and the ferry across the River Mersey. She wondered what had happened to the nice waterfront hotel where she stayed, and the nearby DTI Office GO-NW. Liverpool has been named as European Capital of Culture for 2008 and Liverpool is being re-invented. We found a lot of construction work, especially in the area between the cruise terminal and the Albert Dock. It can only get better.
We had seen the Merseyside Maritime Museum in the distance and thought it was close enough to reach in the rain. It is on the side of the Albert Dock and is an excellent, free museum. We left our wet jackets and umbrellas in a locker and explored. Pete thought of unzipping the legs off his trousers and walk around in shorts but decided they would dry quicker if he kept wearing them. Even walking directly across from the QE2 we had got soaked. The first displays were of the Customs and Excise Museum . Then the maritime displays were very interesting, including displays about famous lost ships - Titanic and Lusitania and the Empress of Ireland among them, and the Battles of the Atlantic in WWII. There is also an extensive maritime archive. Cunard memorabilia were displayed including items from Cunard ships including the QE2. Located within the Merseyside Maritime Museum , the new International Slavery Museum opened on 23 August 2007. This is the date of the annual slave remembrance day, and 2007 is the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade. There is a lot to see, and we didn't look at all the information about the city of Liverpool , preferring to concentrate of the maritime displays.
The weather was improving and we had to decide whether to go back to the QE2 for lunch or stay in the city. If we stayed out then we were committed to walking up to the Anglican Cathedral for the QE2 Anniversary Concert. We already had our tickets so did not need to take the organised coaches. The museum reception explained that it was only a short walk up to the two cathedrals and gave us a better map. We walked around the Albert Dock, and then up to the modern Catholic Metropolitan cathedral of Christ the King - often described as Paddy's Wigwam. The foundation stone had been laid on Whit Monday 5 June 1933 and the Lutyens crypt was completed just after the end of WWII. The design was then modified and the final building was consecrated on 14 May 1967. On our visit the crypt was closed due to engineering work; we could hear the noise of drills which were making it possible to have wheelchair access.
In contrast the Anglican cathedral of Christ and the Blessed Virgin is a massive sandstone building, which looks much older although it is over 10 years younger. It is England 's largest cathedral and the world's fifth largest. The foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII in 1904, with the first element, the Lady Chapel, opening in 1910. The design was then changed to a more modern style and the church was consecrated in 1924 with final completion of the building only in 1978. The two cathedrals were therefore built together and they face each other at either end of Hope Street .
We had been told to be seated by 1555 for a concert performance which would begin at 1600. We arrived just after 1500 and decided to take some photos before being seated. As we walked around the outside of the cathedral we heard music, which was a surprise. Guests we still arriving, including Sir Jimmy Savile who arrived at the side door as we walked by. We entered by the main door at 1520 to find that most people were already seated and there was music playing. Before the concert there was Prelude music by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, under their conductor Anthony Inglis and the Liverpool Cathedral Choir accompanied by the Organist and Master of the Choristers Professor Dr Ian Tracey. At 1530 the orchestra and choirs left the stage, leaving the organist to improvise until the concert proper began at 1600.
Orb and Sceptre (Walton)
Knightsbridge March (Coates)
Pomp and Circumstance March No 4 (Elgar)
Zadok the Priest (Handel)
Hallelujah Chorus (Handel)
The National Anthem (Jacob - All)
The Rt. Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Liverpool - Councilor Paul Clark
Amazing Grace (Trad/Inglis - Lesley Garrett, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir )
The Bishop of Liverpool - The Rt. Revd. James Jones
Abide with Me (Balfour - the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir; audience)
Evening Hymn (Gardiner - The Cathedral Choir)
The President and Managing Director of Cunard Line - Carol Marlow
Flower of Scotland (Williamson - Nicky Spence, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir)
Sir Jimmy Savile OBE, O St J
You'll Never Walk Alone (Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lesley Garrett, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir)
Sailing ( Sunderland - The Band of the Scots Guards)
Rule Britannia (Arne - Lesley Garrett, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir)
Jerusalem (Parry - All)
Pomp and Circumstance Number 1 (Elgar - All)
The Master of QE2 - Captain Ian McNaught
Scottish Close of Day (Traditional - The Band of the Scots Guards)
On our seat we found an excellent brochure which described the above concert, and also included descriptions of the various participants and the role of Cunard in the history of the City of Liverpool , and the opening of the Cruise Ship Terminal. There was also a Union Jack. The concert was obviously going to involve some audience participation, and not only in singing the chorus of some of the songs. We were seated in what is usually the north transept - walking up the nave towards the altar it is on the left. Cathedrals are usually oriented east-west, whereas Liverpool is firmly located north-south, which made our seat in their west transept. There was a wave of clapping when Sir Jimmy Savile arrived and instead of taking his seat he wandered around the cathedral, talking to people, until he was eventually captured by the stewards and returned to his seat.
We had an excellent view just a few feet in front of us of the choir and orchestra, or rather of their backs. They were joined by the soprano Lesley Garrett and the tenor Nicky Spence. The pieces of music were linked by short choreographed speeches from the five speakers - The Lord Mayor of Liverpool, the Bishop of Liverpool, Carol Marlow of Cunard, Sir Jimmy Savile and Carol Thatcher. The speeches were each excellent and Sir Jimmy Savile gave an impressive speech without notes. After Carol Thatcher had spoken the Band of the Scots Guard began playing outside the cathedral, and the main door was opened and they marched slowly up the nave to take their place with the orchestra and choir. The TV screens meant we could watch their progress, although at the beginning we could not see them, only hear them. The whole concert was emotionally charged, with the patriotic British songs mixed with the ever-present shadow of the sale of the QE2 to Dubai in 2008.
The final speaker was the Master of the QE2, Captain Ian McNaught. He made a very short speech. "Today, together, we are celebrating a long and extraordinary life of a great ocean liner. An ocean liner which was conceived and planned here in Liverpool . So far, QE2 has been to Liverpool eight times. The next time, the ninth time, will be the last. After that, she will not pass this way again.". We wonder if his speech had been planned to be longer but the emotion of speaking of his beloved ship to an audience of thousands waving Union Jacks proved just too much. Then the Band of the Scots Guards played the Scottish Close of Day, with a solitary bugler high in the gallery above.
It had been too wet to carry a video camera through the day so we had nothing with which to record the concert. We expected there would be professional recordings or even TV but later found that it had not been permitted.
We left the cathedral as soon as the first coach was called, preferring to walk back alone and reflect. There was plenty of time before dinner and Pauline suggested we looked for a Pub for a beer. We reached the dockside without spotting anywhere suitable. The Pumphouse Inn there was rejected as it only had fizzy beer, although it had an excellent view. Then Pauline saw an isolated building beyond the Albert Dock; she had noticed it when we were walking in the area earlier. It was the Baltic Fleet alehouse in Wapping. It looked the sort of pub which was really for locals and we wondered if it was closed because it was surrounded by rough ground and looked like a building site. Pete went in first and was delighted to see a row of handpumps. The problem was choosing the beer because we knew none of them. This was because the pub houses Wapping, a microbrewery which has done well in beer competitions and the main beers on offer were local. We both chose the first handpump which was the Wapping Summer Ale, at 4.2% a perfect golden brew. We were easily identified as an escaped passenger from the QE2 and found one of the locals knew the Turl pub in Oxford . It is a small world. There had been a CAMRA Real Ale Festival the previous weekend, and we were given a map of all the other good pubs in Liverpool so we could choose where to go for our next drink.
The rain had stopped and we walked back to look again at the Cunard building, to get better photos. The door was still open and we asked the guard whether we could look inside and take a few pictures. By then we were already inside and it was too late for him to refuse. The ground floor is now occupied by the DTI Government Office for the North West, who moved from Graeme House in Derby Square . Pauline had not realised that they now had offices here, else she would have tried to get a proper guided tour. It is a spectacular building which is well preserved inside. There had not been time to look around the area when she last visited Liverpool in 1995. The Port of Liverpool Building, the Royal Liver Building and the Cunard Building are often called "The Three Graces" named after three daughters of Zeus who represented, Splendour, Festivity and Abundance.
We looked on our map for the next nearest Real Ale pub and found the Pig and Whistle in Chapel Street , which had handpumps and Timmy Taylors Landlord. Another nice pint and we were ready to go back on board for dinner.
After dinner we collected warm clothing to listen to the Beatles Tribute Band which was playing in the Funnel Bar from 2200. The weather was fine, although it was getting cold. The old Beatles music was very popular with all the passengers and we managed to dance to most of the tunes. The fireworks began at 2245, and we had a good view. They were being lit on the Birkenhead side of the River Mersey. Then the Tribute Band agreed to play for an extra set and we danced for the rest of the evening and joined in the songs. They finally stopped about midnight. We hope the local people enjoyed the music too. We returned to our cabin via the Midnight Buffet.
All aboard was at 0100 in the morning, ready for a departure at 0300. This unusual timing was because of the tides. It did give the crew and younger passengers the chance to have a night out exploring the bright lights of Liverpool . We didn't stay up but heard neighbours saying to their steward in the morning that they had a late night and watched the Sailaway so they didn't get to bed until 0430. There was a 'Do not disturb' notice on their door until late.
There were more interesting talks today, including John Whitworth who spoke about the Construction, Completion and Commissioning of QE2, and Commodore Ron Warwick who gave a second talk, this time about the QE2 story. I had purchased his book of the same name on a previous cruise and Ron was pleased to sign it and chat. The book is out of print at present, but he hopes to get it reprinted. Eric Flounders spoke about The Cunard Story in the afternoon. He has been Public Relations Manager of Cunard since 1983 and, together with Michael Gallagher the Cunard Public Relations Executive had organised and orchestrated the wonderful cruise. They were both on board.
Carol Marlow, President and Managing Director of Cunard Line also gave a talk about the Queen Victoria but we didn't attend that, and most unusually we found it was not repeated on the QE2 television channels.
The soprano Lesley Garrett had joined QE2 in Liverpool after taking part in the Concert and she gave an excellent solo performance in the evening in the Grand Lounge. It was one of the few times during our three weeks on board that we had been to anything in the Grand Lounge. We had seen all the standard shows before, and avoid any comedians.
Packing our five suitcases meant that the cabin was in chaos for most of the evening with two suitcases on each bed and one in the middle of the floor. Fortunately baggage could be left outside until 0200 so we had plenty of time.
We had put all our valuable and fragile items, especially the wine we had purchased during the previous cruise, into the extra suitcase bought in South Queensferry . This was a nuisance to carry off the ship, but at least we knew nothing was broken. Last trip the baggage handlers had managed to tear off a wheel from one of our new suitcases so we knew they could get rough handling.
We disembarked as soon as we heard our neighbour had arrived in the car park, and were quickly on our way home. He said he had seen Sir Jimmy Savile disembark, clutching his lifejacket. It was the last day of the Southampton Boat Show, but fortunately there were no traffic problems in the early morning. We are already looking forward to our next cruise.
| Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Layout revised: 15th July, 2015