Wednesday 19 April 2023

£1m Anonymous Restoration Boost for Clyde Steamer TS Queen Mary

The famous steamship TS Queen Mary, which once carried passengers including the Queen Mother and King George V, has been boosted by a £1m anonymous donation.

It is hoped TS Queen Mary will be back in service by the summer of 2024.

The funding will be used in the next phase of the restoration of the TS Queen Mary, in which the vessel’s existing timber decks will be lifted, and new steel decks fabricated and installed.

According to the Friends of TS Queen Mary charity, this is a regulatory requirement and one of the biggest structural undertakings of the ongoing work.

“We are overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of this donor,” said Iain Sim, chairman of the charity.

“This astonishing gift delivers a massive boost to our fundraising efforts. The individual who has made this a substantial cash gift wishes to remain anonymous and we, of course, respect that request.

TS Queen Mary joined Williamson-Buchanan's fleet on 20 May 1933. She was powered by three direct drive steam turbines built by Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company. With a passenger certificate for 2,086 passengers (later reduced to 1,820) she was the largest (though not longest) steamship on the River Clyde.

Following the completion of her trials during which a maximum speed of 19.7 knots (36.5 km/h) was achieved on the Skelmorlie measured mile.

During World War II she provided a mail and passenger service to the Scottish Islands.

She was refitted and repainted in LMS colours after the war and returned to her normal passenger service. In 1948, nationalisation of the railways brought all the remaining passenger ships under the ownership of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company.

Over the winter of 1956-1957, The fuelling of the propulsion system was changed from coal to oil. This necessitated removing the two original Scotch boilers and replacing them with one new single ended boiler and the installation of one large, futuristic funnel in place of the original two. 
In the 1960s there was a decline in passenger sailings on the Firth of Clyde so TS Queen Mary II was refitted for cruises from Gourock to Inveraray, Brodick and Campbeltown. 
Regular sailings from Glasgow ended on 15 September 1969, with the Caledonian Steam Packet Company preferring to have her sail out of Gourock.

From 1969 onwards, TS Queen Mary II was placed on almost all of the cruise rosters, and she sailed regularly to Inveraray, Campbeltown, Ailsa Craig, Bute and to Stranraer. 
The Caledonian Steam Packet Company gradually had been merging with the West Highland ferry company David MacBrayne, and in 1973 the company became Caledonian MacBrayne.

Whilst TS Queen Mary remained very popular in the charter market, nonetheless she was over 40 years old and it was becoming apparent that some major work would be required to keep her in service. 
The decision was taken to retire the vessel from service and on 27 September 1977.
TS Queen Mary undertook her final public sailing, before being laid up in the East India Harbour, Greenock.

After a very chequered history period, when the ship was threatened with scrapping, the ship's royal patron, the Princess Royal, was able to announce on 11th March 2022, that the refit would now be extended to allow Queen Mary to return to passenger cruising in 2024. The plans would now require re-engining of the vessel.

Full history and details of the years since retirement here