TS Queen Mary                                       Welcome to the internet's leading source of Queen Mary information and photographs
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          Queen Mary as most will now remember her : as a floating pub / restaurant moored at Waterloo Bridge, London from 1988 to 2009 (photo : 2007)

A remarkable past : Queen Mary is one the finest excursion steamers ever built and was one of a fleet of steam turbine powered ships which brought a unique brand of speed, smoothness, quietness and a new level of comfort to day trips on Scotland's beautiful Firth of Clyde. She has a remarkable historical pedigree as yard-mate and fleet-mate of TS King Edward, the world's first passenger turbine ship and is now the last ship of her type anywhere in the world. Her contribution to the social history of the city of Glasgow is considerable and she has the added interest of being the "original" Queen Mary, which lent her name to the Cunard company for their iconic ocean liner in 1934 (see "A Ship With Historical Significance" below for more).

Recent history : After 20 years moored in central London and what seemed in the secure hands of a major brewing and later hospitality company, the ship was put up for sale in 2008 as she was required to vacate her prestige central London berth. The ship was sold to a French businessman in the luxury yacht-building sector who had hoped to establish her as a hotel and fitness centre in La Rochelle. Queen Mary languished at Tilbury as it became clear from the French end that the project could not be followed through on and the ship would need to be sold. 
At the ship's auction in August 2011 there were no buyers and she was at real risk until the current private British owner Ranjan Chowdhury subsequently stepped in to save the iconic vessel

Current Status : Queen Mary has been moored at Tilbury Dock, Essex, England since November 2009. In 2011, it was not clear what the future for the ship could or should be, but at least the ship was given time whilst intensive research was undertaken to see if there was any way she could be preserved in a sustainable way. In February 2015, the owner established a website at www.tsqueenmary.uk and an associated facebook page and twitter feed with the initial indication of the results of this work. The restoration of the vessel is expected to be an expensive project and the owner has put together a team of professionals in the fields of finance, restoration and seamanship in order to achieve this. Clearly, the success of the project will depend on the ability to recruit one or more major investors. 

The owner is due to make his proposals public in a short time (as of February 2015) but initial indications as posted on the website are that this will involve luxury cruising and an element of education, skills training and community involvement at her home base which is proposed to be on the Clyde. It is understood that a pure static role was found to be impractical and a return to day excursion trips as she operated until 1977 would not be financially feasible.

The Friends of TS Queen Mary : This separate group, which has charitable status, was established by a group of those who hoped that the ship could be returned to her home river, the Clyde. Since late 2011, the trustees of this Scottish Charity have been working hard to ensure that a return to Glasgow will be possible if the ship becomes available for sale, which in the absence of any official developments always appeared a strong possibility. Their aim is to see her established as an educational and historical attraction for the benefit of the city although it has been accepted that the cost of returning her to any operational service would likely be well beyond the resources of the charity, at least in the short to medium term. See
http://www.friendsoftsqueenmary.org/  for the official website. The Friends latest news can be found on facebook 

Please note that it is understood that the Friends of TS Queen Mary charity, as it currently stands, is not a "support group" to the extent that it does not offer nor intends to offer financial support for the ship whilst it is under private ownership. Should the ship return to operation as the owner intends, it would then be for the charity to reassess its objects should it so wish 

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Photo taken at Tilbury on 4th November 2012                                                                                                 Alex Naughton 2012


Built in 1933 by Wm. Denny & Bros. at Dumbarton, Scotland (yard no. 1262)
Dimensions : 263 ft 4 in x 37 ft x 7 ft 6 in  (80.26 m x 11.28 m x 2.29 m)
Engines : 3 direct drive turbines (1 x HP, 2 x LP also for reversing : 800 RPM 3800 - horsepower)
Gross Registered Tonnage : 870 (as built) then 1014 (after reboilering in 1957)


Built for Williamson-Buchanan Steamers Ltd for their Clyde services from Bridge Wharf, Glasgow
Keel laid : 9th December 1932
Launched : 30th March 1933, naming ceremony conducted by Lady Colquhoun
Trials : 15th May 1933, achieving 19.696 knots
Entered service : 20th May 1933
Understood to have cost GBP 61,805 and 16/9d - equating to approximately GBP 3 million in currency terms of 2010.
Twin funnels exhausing a Scotch-type boiler were painted in Williamson-Buchanan colours, white with black tops
Unusually for a Clyde Steamer, first class accommodation was at the forward end of the vessel (lounge on promeande deck, restaurant on main deck)
Normal weekday schedule was to leave Glasgow at 10:00 hrs for Dunoon and Rothesay, with a range of onward non-landing cruises
Saturdays saw her leave Glasgow at 13:45 for Dunoon, Rothesay and the Kyles of Bute
Renamed Queen Mary II in 1935 to allow her name to be used for the new Cunard liner.
Presented with a portrait of HRH Queen Mary which hung in the forward lounge by the Cunard company in appreciation
Williamson-Buchanan (1935) Ltd established in October 1935 as her owners became a subsidiary of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co.
Only took the yellow and black funnel colours of the CSP in December 1939 and was finally registered as owned by that company in 1943
Remained on the Clyde throughout the Second World War generally between Gourock and Dunoon sporting a range of (mostly grey) camouflage liveries.
Wartime duties involved ferry work between Gourock and Dunoon and tendering military and troop-transporting ships including RMS Queen Mary
Enclosed wheelhouse fitted in 1948 
First and third class areas were abolished in 1950 and all accommodation became available to all passengers   
Mainmast fitted in 1954 to meet new safety regulations - and new cafeteria facilities installed in the same year
Converted to an oil burning Yarrow water-tube boiler in early 1957 when one large elliptical funnel replaced her two funnels
Radar installed in 1960.
Masts shortened in 1969 so that she could sail under the new Kingston Bridge on which a new motorway ran through Glasgow
After the 1969 season, Glasgow sailings were withdrawn and she sailed out of Gourock
Refitted in 1971 and undertook sailings as far as Campbeltown and Inveraray, in succession to the withdrawn turbine Duchess of Hamilton
Her original name was restored in 1976 after Cunard's Queen Mary was removed from the register.
In her later years, sailings to and from Glasgow were restored
Withdrawn in 1977 after local government tourist development grants were withdrawn and given to support the paddle steamer Waverley.
Her final cruise was an evening "Showboat" cruise from Largs to Rothesay and through the Kyles of Bute on September 12th 1977.
Earlier that day she had sailed light from Gourock to Largs then took a public cruise via Rothesay and Dunoon into Loch Long then back light from Largs to Gourock
Laid-up at East India harbour, Greenock

Sold to Glasgow District Council in June 1978 for GBP 30,000
Plans to develop her as a maritime museum on the Clyde collapsed as budgets were cut by a new incoming government.
Sold to Euroyachts Ltd for use as a floating restaurant at Anderston Quay, Glasgow, for GBP 17,000 in May 1980
In 1981, after eight months with Euroyachts she was sold to the Lau family restaurant company Tesright Ltd for GBP 40,000
Left the Clyde on 29th January 1981 under tow to King George V Dock, London, arriving on 2nd February. The tug was MV Pullwell Delta
Damaged by fire during refitting. Laid up.
Sold to brewers Bass-Charrington (Toby Restaurants Division) in 1987 to replace her former Clyde fleetmate
PS Caledonia, which was lost to fire in 1980.
Refitted at the Crescent Shipyard, Chatham with new funnels, masts, companionways and bulkheads. The total cost was estimated at GBP 2 million
Warren Smith Architects involved in the design work.
Moved from Chatham Historic Dockyard on July 29th 1988 under tow by Warrior (skippered by Ron Livett), Triton and Sir Aubrey of Warrior Towage Ltd.
Moored alongside the Embankment on the north bank of the Thames immediately upstream from Waterloo Bridge with her bows pointing upstream
She was understood to have been the largest vessel to have reached this far upstream
Soon after arrival her white and black funnels aquired two red bands separated by a white band with a thin black line around the centre of the white band.
Received a major refurbishment in 1997 at Chatham at a reported cost of GBP 2.5 million and reappeared with buff funnels with black tops.
In 2005 her upper works were painted light blue, her ventilators being buff to match the funnel
In February 2006 the blue was overpainted with brilliant white. White funnels with black tops were restored, now featuring a "QM" inscription
Closed for business in January 2009 and sold in April 2009 by Mitchells & Butlers plc, successors to the Bass Retail Leisure organisation
The issue was forced by a requirement for her berth for an extended riverbus pier development at Savoy Pier
Sold to a private consortium headed by Mr Samuel Boudon with plans to convert her for use as a floating hotel at La Rochelle, France.
Left London under tow on 9th November 2009 for Tilbury Dock by the tug Aicirtron (again skippered by Ron Livett) assisted by Horton and Unico
By the summer of 2011 the La Rochelle project was cancelled and the ship remained laid-up at Tilbury as the buyer unsuccessfully sought to negotiate a sale
Auctioned at short notice in August 2011 and failed to sell
Sold by negotiation to a UK-based private buyer in September 2011

The ship remains at Tilbury (as on 14 Feb 2015)


The importance and uniqueness of ships can often be overstated and it is wrong to make too many claims to fame for any ships, but in the 21st century we are now seeing quite a few "last ofs" and Queen Mary can claim one of these as well as a strong direct link to a fleet-mate which really was a "first of" of her type worldwide

- Direct derivative and fleet mate of the world's first ever steam turbine powered passenger ship, TS King Edward (1901-1951).
- The last passenger-only turbine steamer in operation built as a coastal and estuarine day excursion ship
- The last surviving example of her class worldwide and one of the few remaining examples of a passenger ship of any class built with steam turbines

Glasgow's boat :
Her importance to the social history of Glasgow and the Firth of Clyde should not be underestimated. She followed her predecessors by being primarily based in the centre of Glasgow and ferrying many hundreds of thousands of its citizens to the Clyde resorts for day trips and for their annual holidays. Going "doon the watter" was one of the timeless aspects of industrial Glasgow's life - a rare chance to escape the city for the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the Firth in a ship built in one of the area's most famous shipyards.

The original Queen Mary : She has, of course, the curiousity value of being the "original" Queen Mary and holding the name that the Cunard line wished for its new ocean liner, which went on to become one of the world's most famous ships. The grudging agreement of her owners saw the name go to the Clydebank-built liner which is now preserved in Long Beach, California, whilst the Clyde steamer became the first "Queen Mary II"  (strictly speaking, slightly different to Queen Mary 2) until recovering her original name in 1976. On display in her forward saloon was a portrait of HRH Queen Mary, wife of HRH King George V, gifted by the Cunard company in appreciation (click here to see photo). In addition, a brass plaque was presented which recorded the details of the event (click here to see photo).
Click here for more about Queen Mary's connection with the famous Cunard ocean liner Queen Mary 

Efforts to establish her as a museum ship go back to 1977
: In 1977 she was purchased by Glasgow District Council to be the centre-piece of a proposed maritime museum. (see press reports in the Glasgow Herald on this link). The then Director of Museums, Trevor Walden, told the Glasgow Herald, "We would benefit enormously from such a facility and the ship would bring new interest and life to the quay. It could provide accommodation for exhibitions and possibly space to develop an art rental service. It might also provide catering facilities". The council was aware of the additional uses the space aboard could be used for and clearly saw her as a major attraction for their riverside redevelopments. However funding was withdrawn after a change of national government and the ship was sold for commercial use and the opportunity to save her for the nation was lost. Read more. In 2009 she was offered to Glasgow Museums once again, this time free of charge, but times had changed and she did not fit in with plans for the new Riverside Museum.


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Queen Mary at Inveraray by kind courtesy of the degahk collection (part of the Caledonian-MacBrayne 1973-1977 section - see below)

Photos are grouped into different phases of the ship's life. Click on the links below to go to the required section

1933-1943 - Williamson-Buchanan Steamers

At the end of 1935 this hitherto independent company, itself a merger of two private fleets, was absorbed by the Caledonian Steam Packet Company, the subsidiary of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. From 1936 until 1943, the Williamson-Buchanan vessels remained in a CSP subsidiary, Williamson-Buchanan (1936) Ltd.
As Williamson-Buchanan had no connection with the railway companies whose fleets dominated the Clyde and owned the piers with railheads, they had traditionally concentrated on "all-the-way" sailings to the coastal resorts from Central Glasgow - a longer day out, but traditionally cheaper for passengers. Queen Mary brought unheard of luxury to what had traditionally been the poor relation of Clyde services and remained closely associated with this route throughout her career.


1943-1973 - Caledonian Steam Packet Co

Although she effectively came under the Caledonian Steam Packet Comapny from the 1936 season, it was not until 1943 when the Williamson-Buchanan subsidiary was wound up and Queen Mary was re-registered with her parent company. The Caledonian, which had been established in 1889, retained its name through railway amalgamations, and when, in 1948, most of Britain's railways were nationalised and operated as "British Railways", it became a subsidiary of this new organisation. During this period, Queen Mary was reboilered and emerged for the 1957 season with only one elliptical funnel. The CSP's ships were removed from railway control when, on 1st January 1969 it became a subsidiary of the Scottish Transport Group, whose main activities were running buses and whose task was to cut the losses being incurred on maritime operations.  From 1973, the CSPs Clyde operations and the Western Isles services of David MacBrayne Ltd services were combined into a new entity, Caledonian-MacBrayne. Photo by kind courtesy of Joe Dalrymple


1973-1977 - Caledonian MacBrayne

When the CSP was merged with David MacBrayne Ltd (whose remaining private shareholders had been bought out) the new state-controlled entity embarked on a rapid programme of modernisation. This involved providing fast and frequent point-to-point services for car ferries - a lifeline for remote communities and essential to handle the growing motorised traffic to the main resorts. They were left with two large passenger-only "cruise" boats on the Clyde and paddle steamer Waverley was withdrawn after only one season. Excursion cruises, with such a strong tradition on the Firth of Clyde could not be abandoned completely and, with nobody expecting Waverley to survive other than as a static exhibit, Queen Mary was retained for further service. With Waverley back on the Clyde in 1975 under preservationist owners and both ships fighting for the dwindling customers  and precious local authority tourist development grants available, Caledonian-MacBrayne decided, after three seasons, to withdraw Queen Mary. Photo courtesy of Martin Roberts.

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1978-1988 : The Wilderness Years

With Queen Mary out of service, the debate raged as to what to do with her. The public and press campaign never matched that of PS Waverley in 1973/4, but Glasgow Distict Council did buy her with the aim of turning her into a museum as part of their riverside developments. Reduced funding available from central government put an end to the project and she was sold on, eventually to restauranteurs who moved her to London. Very little happened until Toby Restaurants, part of the large brewing company Bass-Charrington bought her in late 1987 and immediately set about fitting her out as a restaurant ship to be moored in central London.

Photo of Queen Mary laid up at King George V Dock, London, courtesy of John Jones


1988-2009 : A floating restaurant in London

Arriving in central London at the end of July, 1988, Queen Mary became an immediate attraction, with numerous restaurants and bars in a prime location in the British capital city. Toby Restaurants were clearly very proud of their new premises, but over the years, the amount of space devoted to restaurants was reduced and the main deck was marketed only for functions, conferences and weddings. In the evenings she turned into a night club in an effort to attract custom. After 10 years she received a major overhaul, but by 2008 a further re-fit was necessary to maintain the internal standards needed to compete in an increasingly cut-throat environment. With the economic chaos in 2008 making it increasingly difficult to run Queen Mary as a going concern and the share price of Mitchells & Butlers, inheritors of much of the Bass-Charrington empire, collapsing at an even more alarming rate than the stock market in general  and the need for major expenditure looming, she was put up for sale. There were no takers in the pub/restaurant sector.


2009 : Aboard Queen Mary after closure for business

Photos by kind courtesy of Richard Lane of sales agents and auctioneers, Capital Boats / Capital Marine Auctions

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Late October / early November 2009 : Preparations for removal

With little chance of her being retained as a pub and her valuable berth eyed for new river bus developments, Queen Mary was advertised through a ship-broker and immediately attracted interest. How much was genuine and how much was just sentimental enquiries is unknown, but in April 2009 it became clear that she was destined to be sold to French interests. It then became known that she was bought for conversion to a hotel ship and would be moored in the marina at the French port of La Rochelle. Having closed for business in January of 2009, she was soon emptied and lay forlornly until final preparations were made for her tow away from London under the various Thames bridges on a suitable low tide. In late October 2009, her funnels and masts were dismantled and the end of Queen Mary's life in London could be seen to be coming to a close.

Photo courtesy of Ben Mann

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On tow through London : Monday 9th Nov 2009

Considerable interest was generated by the day of the tow and numerous photographers found suitable locations on the Thames riverbank and bridges to record her departure. Leaving her berth just before low tide and stemming the tide alongside HMS President, one of the few other historic ships on the London riverbank, she was turned and edged underneath London's road and rail bridges and through Tower Bridge which opened for the occasion. By mid afternoon she was at Greenwich and around 18:00 hrs tied up at Tilbury Dock awaiting further instructions.

Photo courtesy of Mike Jackson


At Tilbury : From November 2009

Includes photos taken on the the potential buyers' viewing day - 22nd August 2011

Photos of the viewing day are displayed by kind courtesy of Richard Lane of sales agents and auctioneers, Capital Boats / Capital Marine Auctions

The internal photos show the superficial damage caused by intruders who ripped out cables from cable trays plus general throwing around of furniture in the promenade deck lounges


Turbines removed - two donated to the Science Museum, London and one retained on the vessel and originally displayed in the lower deck cocktail bar with a propellor directly attached.
Note :
One turbine remains with the Science Museum and his held at their large item storage facility at Wroughton, Wilts and can only be seen by appointment.
One is now at the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine and has been stored outside but is due (in 2010) to be taken inside for restoration and display.
The webmaster is unclear about the current location of the third turbine which had not been on display aboard for many years.
The new owners have indicated to me that to their knowledge it is not aboard, although there are other indications it might remain concealed in a storage area.
Can anyone confirm ?


26 of Denny's original ship plans relating to yard Number 1262 are held in the archive of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Click here for more details regarding the specific plans available

Manager, Historic Photographs and Ship Plans
Tel: +44 (0)20 8312 8600
Fax: +44 (0)20 8317 0263
E-mail: plansandphotos@nmm.ac.uk
Ship Plans Website: www.nmm.ac.uk/shipplans










Donald McKinnon



Fergus Murdoch



John McGlashan



James Ramsay



Walter Lennox



Mick Brophy



John Cameron



David McCormick



Callum MacLean


Entry in Lloyds Register for 1933-34

More about the ship's interesting connection with the famous Cunard ocean liner Queen Mary

Queen Mary's regular Clyde roster in the 1969 season

Examples of reports in the local press, 1977-1981
Vessel History Brochure by David Griffiths available on board in 1988 (pdf file)
Text of Offers for Sale 2008/9 through Colliers CRE and Capital Boats
More about the project to establish her as a hotel and fitness centre at La Rochelle in France
The webmaster's 2011 press and TV awareness campaign

Tribute to Ron Livett, Thames "waterman" and tugmaster - 2012

A view from the USA : Shawn Dake from California, submitted this report of a trip on Queen Mary in 1977 to the magazine Steamboat Bill, the journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America and it was published in winter, 1978. Shawn has since become a well-known author and campaigner on various matters of maritime history and contributes articles regularly to the
Maritime Matters website amongst others. Many thanks to Shawn for retrieving the article from the archive and allowing it to be reproduced here.
Click to view as pdf file

For more about Queen Mary's owners and the Clyde in the 1930s when she was introduced, click on these links

Williamson-Buchanan Steamers Ltd : Queen Mary's first owners
Caledonian Steam Packet Company : the operators she is most commonly associated with
Caledonian-MacBrayne : who took control for the final years of her operational life
Clyde Steamers of the 1930s : A review of the decade and its new ships by Gordon Stewart


Aboard Queen Mary II : a Purser's Life on the Glasgow Boat : by Richard Orr
ISBN-10: 1845300734   ISBN-13: 978-1845300739  First published 2011


Denny's yard at Dumbarton was one of the most famous of the Clyde shipyards, even if it was located just off the Clyde on the River Leven and tucked behind the imposing rock outcrop housing Dumbarton Castle. Established in 1840 by Peter Denny but better known as William Denny and Bros. the company built a range of vessels, from Clyde Steamers up to naval warships, and by pioneering steam turbine technology it established a strong position in the cross-channel ferry market. The company survived until 1963 when it went into liquidation. The site of the yard has been cleared, but much remains undeveloped as shown in this photo taken in 2011 and kindly supplied by Kenny Whyte.

MORE CLYDE STEAMERS ..............

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For more Clyde Turbine Steamers such as Duchess of Hamilton (left) :

Go to the Clyde Turbine Steamers Website Homepage 

For full details of the paddle steamers which formed the bulk of the Clyde excursion steamer fleet, please go to the paddlesteamers.info website.


Gordon Stewart is a paddle steamer and tramway photographer and promotes paddle steamers through the paddlesteamers.info website
Gordon Stewart can be contacted on this link 

This is an unofficial website, not connected in any way with past or present owners of the Queen Mary.
Any views expressed are those of the webmaster only unless otherwise attributed. 

All photographs displayed are with the permission of the acknowledged photographer but are not to be copied for re-use for any other website or publication without the specific authorisation of the photographer. You are welcome to use the text from this website as a research source and basis for your own work but it should not be copied and republished elsewhere verbatim or only slightly altered.
All material is Tramscape and Gordon Stewart or the individual photographer where acknowledged. Photos not otherwised attributed are by Gordon Stewart 



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