December 4, 2008
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
What a week for Cunard. We said farewell to QE2, to see her begin a new life in Dubai, and we celebrate Queen Victoria’s first anniversary of sailing under the Cunard flag. Thank you to Peter Shanks for sharing a unique view of QE2’s arrival in Dubai. Thanks Jerry for the links and to answer Paul Bird’s question, although it would be a lovely idea to think that the timing of her farewell was the 40th anniversary of her sea trials was chosen on purpose, I’m afraid it was just timely coincidence. It’s also good to hear about all your sentiments of QE2 and of course thanks for the feedback regarding the TOGS voyage blog. I liked Doug’s reference to Queen Victoria as a 21st Century Queen – I couldn’t have put it better myself. But before I bring you up to date with the next part of the TOGS voyage, here is this week in Cunard’s history for the 27th of November to the 3rd December.
November 29 1968
QE2 Sails from fitting out berth under command of Captain Bill Warwick
November 30 2007
Cunard takes formal ownership of Queen Victoria as she leaves the Marghera Ship yard flying the Cunard flag for the first time.
December 2 1982
Visit of HM the Queen Mother to QE2 in Southampton the second time in a year
December 3 2004
Cunard signs the contract with Fincantieri’s Marghera ship yard, to build hull number 6127 Queen Victoria
In a week that marks Queen Victoria’s joining the Cunard family, it’s perfect timing to share part four of the TOGS voyage. For those still unsure of what the TOGS are all about – you’ll find out more on my earlier blogs – hopefully that may help! Meanwhile Malta greeted Queen Victoria with a stunning day as she arrived at about lunchtime and I have to say it’s a great port, packed with history and lovely to be just a short walk from the centre of Valletta. Thanks Matt for this great photo.
Later that afternoon Sir Terry Wogan, (also affectionately known as the Togmeister), arrived at the ship, to be greeted by Captain Christopher Rynd and Hotel Manager Jacqui Hodgeson. There were a few TOGS hanging over the ships rails (well not literally but you get the meaning), to greet him as his Butler escorted him to his suite. However, despite him having broadcast that morning back in London and the flight to Valletta, we had a rehearsal booked for him at 6.00pm. As I escorted him from the aft of the ship to the Royal Court Theatre (forward), he remarked that a Par 9 would have been a shorter distance! For someone who has appeared on stages all over the world, even Sir Terry was amazed as we entered the Frank Matcham inspired Royal Court Theatre mentioning it reminded him of the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin where he had hosted the famed Eurovision Song Contest some years ago.
For this special performance, we had sold the Theatre Boxes and front row in a silent auction raising even more for “Children In Need”. Entertainment Director Amanda Reid gave Sir Terry a great introduction and the show began with him regaling hilarious stories and tales from his TOGS before introducing Canon Roger Royle who auctioned off items including, “Dinner at the Captains Table hosted by Sir Terry and Captain Rynd”, “An invitation to London to watch the Wake Up To Wogan show followed by brunch”, “A limited edition print of Queen Victoria signed by the ships senior officers and the Wake Up to Wogan Team on board” and some exclusive TOGS items. Although it was all aimed to raise as much money for “Children In Need” as possible, it proved to be hugely entertaining with the banter that they do so well on Radio 2 each morning. John “Boggy” Marsh and his wife Janet were then invited by Sir Terry to join him on stage for the latest “Janet and John” tale which was………….unprintable here ………but hilarious. I am not sure if it will ever be published, but don’t forget you can get copies of other “Janet and John” tales, which have been heard on the “Wake Up To Wogan Show” by clicking on this link.
I would at this point like to acknowledge the incredible work done by Norman, Helen and the various Togs around the country who run this website and work so hard in getting the various merchandise sent out, as well as having the inspiration to come up with so many brilliant fund raising ideas. They do a fantastic job and raise over £1 million for children in need each year. Their current aim is to get Sir Terry’s duet with Aled Jones performing “Little Drummer Boy” from the “Bandaged” CD to be the Christmas number 1 – good luck to you all.
Meanwhile back on stage John Marsh invited Sir Terry to close the show with the Hippopotamus song (which is also on the “Bandaged” CD). Sir Terry wasn’t too sure about this surprise, but it was too late, as Canon Roger Royle appeared on stage with the words and Alan “Barrowlands” Boyd appeared majestically on a lift coming up from the orchestra pit. That sight alone was enough to start Sir Terry off in a fit of the giggles and it clearly made quite an impact on him as he still mentions it frequently on air! It was a great close to the show with the entire audience joining in the chorus of “Mud, mud, glorious mud……….” Have you noticed there are some tunes you just can’t get out of your head! It was already late and with the prospect of an early start, most of us got an early night (I’m not mentioning who didn’t…….) ready for the live broadcast the following morning.
I was in the Commodore Club by 7.15am but was beaten to it by Myles, Neil, Jim, Gary, Keith and the technical team who were busy establishing the satellite link up from the ship’s Commodore Club to the BBC’s Radio studios back in London. This is no mean feat on a moving ship coming into port, but they did an incredible job. Gustavo and his team had also set up breakfast for Sir Terry and his team, including the much loved “Snorkers” (or sausages to you and me!) I was also beaten to it by the TOGS who were already ensuring they had the best view, with the earliest being “Cocktail Clare” who apparently arrived at 6.20am – now that’s what I call keen! Before too long the Commodore filled up and Sir Terry arrived at 8.00am to a huge cheer from the gathered crowd.
The broadcast began at precisely 8.30am ship’s time (7.30am) back in Britain and Sir Terry began by gloating about the beautiful weather over the straits of Messina. To all of you at home – yes it really was that lovely I’m afraid. There were also claims of canned laughter from back in the studio but I can assure you the Commodore Club was packed with over a hundred very excited TOGS!
It was fascinating for everyone who hadn’t seen a live radio broadcast before, to see how it all happened and to see the professionalism of the operation, despite the banter and lightheartedness you hear on air. Alan “Barrowlands” Boyd even had access to emails coming in from listeners in the UK, with the help of his assistant Joe and the technical knowhow of Keith. During his broadcast Sir Terry was very complimentary about the ship and her crew and as part of the first morning’s broadcast, he interviewed the ship’s Master, Captain Christopher Rynd.
During the interview he did happen to mention why he, as a knight of the realm, hadn’t been piped aboard, so we all made a mental note to arrange something next time! And, while a song was being played back in London and not forgetting what this voyage was all about, he took the time to pose with Captain Rynd and Pudsey.
There is lots more to tell you about the voyage and the last two days but I have just realised how long this blog is getting so I’ll sign off here, and post you the last episode in a few days time – I bet you can’t wait! In the meantime I’d like to thank the “Wake Up To Wogan” team and the TOGS for being so much fun as well as the Captain, officers and crew on Queen Victoria for doing such a great job in looking after us all, and making the event so special – true White Star Service.