September 3, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Ship's Company
Welcome to a very special Blog as we mark our one year anniversary of the “We Are Cunard” Blog with this, the 85th posting. What a busy year it’s been but I would like to thank the support team in Southampton for all their help, but most of all you for logging on each week. You’ve also given me lots of ideas on how to develop the Blog further, so I look forward to introducing new features over the coming months. This will include more video and of course lots of news of what’s going on board our ships and on the shore side. I know you are all awaiting more news of Queen Elizabeth, so I’m delighted to confirm I’ll be visiting shipyard next week when Queen Victoria visits Venice, so I look forward to sharing that with you very soon.
As I return to Queen Victoria and it’s a great pleasure to profile someone who taught me a huge amount on my first contract with Cunard. But before that special guest Blog, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week, 4th to the 10th September:
September 4 2005
QE2 becomes longest serving Cunarder surpassing Scythia 36 Years 4 months 2 days (1921 – 1957)
September 9 2008
Queen Victoria makes maiden call at Santorini
September 10 2007
Cunard announces that the Duchess of Cornwall will name Queen Victoria three months later on December 10
Many of you will remember Maureen Ryan as a Social Hostess on numerous Cunard Ships, who too many, was the epitome of Cunard. Whenever I had the opportunity to chat with her I loved hearing the stories of her life on the old Cunarders. She seemed such an ideal person to ask to write something for this Blog, so during my leave I met up with Maureen at her flat in London for what turned out to be a full day as we had chatted and looked through her fascinating scrapbooks and photo albums.
Maureen was born in London and spent her childhood living near Dublin and in Hove, Sussex, where she attended a convent school. After school she spent a restless few years with a variety of jobs, reception, teaching English in France, and secretarial work, besides being an enthusiastic member of amateur dramatic societies. A fascination with ships took her to P&O Line, on board SS Chusan as one of the four telephone operators, en route to India and the Far East. She then joined Cunard Line in 1963 as a Lady Assistant Purser on Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, Franconia, Carmania, Carinthia and joined QE2 on the Clyde in 1968 as one of the Social Directresses. Maureen attempted to ‘swallow the anchor’ (leave the sea!) and in 1970 joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a Personal Assistant in London, and had postings to the British Embassy in Addis Ababa and Paris. She then worked in a Minister of State’s Private Office back in London. The sea beckoned again and she rejoined Cunard Line working on Cunard Princess, Cunard Countess and QE2. In 1980 she went to work in Cunard’s New York office on 5th Avenue to help with a special project, spending a great few months living and working in the heart of Manhattan. In 2003, Maureen joined Queen Mary 2 in St Nazaire. She also took part in a series of White Star Academy training videos, which were shown to Officers, Staff and Crew on board Queen Mary 2 and QE2.
In between contracts at sea, Maureen worked as a tour manager, escorting groups in London, the UK and overseas, and a conference hostess, besides appearing as background staff in several movies and TV productions. In 1994 Maureen was nominated to become a Freeman of the City of London.
Finally, in 2007, she decided that the time had come, to finally ‘swallow the anchor’ and left Cunard Line. However, she returned to QE2 as a guest lecturer during her farewell season, and was honoured to be the ‘Madrina’ (Godmother at the Float-Out ceremony in Venice) in January 2007, to Queen Victoria. This involved welding a Gold Sovereign and a Euro Life on a bulk head by the Sports Court.
Maureen is still very busy helping to escort visitors in London, and also working on films and TV shows, besides helping at her local church in various capacities. Her interests include the theatre, cinema, visiting historical sites reading and walking, particularly in the open spaces in London, where she has almost completed a 78 mile series of walks called The Capital Ring, for which she is looking forward to receiving her certificate on completion.
Guest Blog – Maureen Ryan
Recently, as I opened the envelope from Cunard and drew out the shining brochure ‘Queen Elizabeth – Maiden Voyages 2010’ … I reminisced about the 1960’s, when the two great Queens, “Mary” and “Elizabeth” crossed the North Atlantic every week, a regular service in Cunard tradition. Ships built in the 30’s, colours and shapes of pure art deco. Here I am as a Lady Assistant Purser, dressed in Wren Officer Uniform, working on Queen Elizabeth.
Memories of long carriage, manual typewriters for completing the immigration manifests, typing up the crew list (1350 names) on onion skin paper (12 carbon copies)…..one error and you retyped the page ……. computers and photocopiers a future dream. The Stenography Service advertised in the Financial Times in 1966, offered passengers the opportunity to ‘get all your paperwork done during the voyage’. This is the publicity photograph they published with the advert.
The girls with me are (from left to right, back row first), Maureen Patrick, Jane Leat, Jill Williams, Lynn Waring, Joyce Mole & I’m the one on the bottom right. The advert had a slogan; “You can work harder on board a Cunarder”… I agreed with that …. it was a daunting duty, taking dictation, often speedy, from some entrepreneur and hoping, hoping, that I’d be able to read it back! The Pursers Office was closed during lunchtime and closed for the day at 6.00pm, apart from Safety Deposit watch in First Class, to enable the ladies to retrieve their jewellery for the evening…..
There were three classes, First, Cabin and Tourist. Only Senior Officers had public room privileges, so we were only in passenger areas when helping at various events such as the Captain’s Reception in First Class, (names were like something from Who’s Who). Here I’m at a party with some guests and a senior officer in the Purser’s Staff called Brent Jenkins.
There was also Ladies Night as well as the Fancy Head Dress evenings in Cabin and Tourist. I’m not sure what this gentleman’s outfit meant but it was all part of the job!
We also escorted the shore excursions, though as you can see from this photo, taken on a tour to the Acropolis from Queen Elizabeth in 1965, the dress codes were somewhat different!
In our spare time we socialised in the Wardrooms, or squashed ourselves into staff cabins where someone hosted a get together. We all had to be off-decks by about 11pm and the pantry staircases were literally worn down with the tread of the late nighters, anxious to avoid the Master-at-Arms who patrolled the ship.
We were overnight in New York, so once the passengers had disembarked, the ship was empty and silent and crew scattered themselves until the early hours on Broadway, 5th Avenue or at the Village.
Sailing day from New York meant scores of visitors paying 50 cents to come on board with noise, excitement, passenger parties, and finally, gongs sounding throughout the ship and bell boys calling, “All Ashore” and it was time for a great Cunarder to depart and cross the vast North Atlantic once again… A world and way of life gone forever.
Thanks Maureen for a fantastic Blog, and I’m happy to say Maureen will be back with more fascinating stories soon. Thank you again for logging on this special anniversary Blog; I’m looking forward to another year of Blogging and reading your comments and questions, so yes lots to come. Cheers Alastair.