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Ship's Company

A True Cunarder Reflects On Her Career in a Different Era

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.

  1. Jeff Towns says:

    I met Maureen on the QE2′s last voyage. Her talks were incredible and she is a charming lady with such a knowledge of Cunard. I hope to see her on another voyage soon. Perhaps the maiden voyage of Queen Elizabeth.

  2. Christian Reay says:

    WOW! What a remarkable lady! Her account of life aboard the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth are simply captivating, has she ever considered writing a book about her experiences?

    As blogs go, this is simply the best!

  3. Alessandra Garo says:

    I quote Christian comment. I really loved to read Maureen post and frankly wished it would never end. It has been so nice to read some part of the “history behind history”.

  4. june kirby says:

    I wonder if Maureen was serving on the QE2 in 1969 and the Carmania when I was on board them, life was certainly alot different then as Maureen points out, allowing the public to vist the ships whilst in port..pre 9/11. I hope I get a chance to read more of her experiences or even better to hear her speak if she is on any of the up and coming cruises in September this year or January (world cruise) next year on the victoria. Also looking forward to meeting you next week Alastair on the Autumn Splendour cruise.

  5. I was DJ on the QE2 from 1988 to 91 and again from 97 to 99 and had the pleasure of working with Maureen in the cruise staff department. For me, Maureen represented everything good about Cunard. She is classy, intelligent, professional and a joy to work with. Back then I wish I’d seen the photos of Maureen when she was younger (what a stunner!), if you are reading this Maureen I’d have cornered you in my DJ booth in a heartbeat!!!!xxxxx

  6. kel prince says:

    Once again,now 80,I determined to go on a cruise but once again I find that the best boats for cabins,food and entertainment demand a dress code ! I can dine in the finest retaurants in France and many in the UK without having to dress up but cruising has apparently no such freedom. Sad
    Kel Prince

  7. jenni Widdowson/Brooke/Harrison says:

    I well remember servingwith Maureen and have enjoyed reading her blog.

  8. jackie smith says:

    It is Kel Prince’s comment which is sad, if a “gentleman” in his 80s cannot be bothered to dress as required to keep standards up then he is no better than what is called a yobbo. Why not get a hoodie Kel and this section , not your wardrobe. I am however impressed that you still enjoy the freedom to cruise and dine in the best establishments in France and England.

  9. kel prince says:

    Have just notice a belated response to my comment of October 2009 by Jackie Smith,I did not of course refer to myself as a gentleman and am old enough not to be upset by being called a “Yobbo”.However in June this year(2010)I travelled on the Queen Mary 2 to New York,a truly fine experience.The crew were without exception brilliant(I use a wheelchair) however dressing up was the penalty for enjoying everything else!.Surely in these modern times one should not be judged by the clothes one wears.Unrepentantly Kel Prince

  10. Hi – my name is John Shepherd and I was an assistant purser with the Cunard Line from 1963 until 1968. I have just read Maureen Ryan’s account of the 2009 Cunard Pursers’ Reunion. So many familiar names I remember from 45 years ago!!! It was great fun whilst it lasted.

    I have recently put a few of my own photographs of 1960s Purser’s Staff on a website which can be found at .

    It’s good to know that so many of you are still around. Best wishes to you all, John Shepherd

  11. Sallie (Sara) Anthony says:

    I sailed with Maureen when I worked on board the QE2 as the manageress of the Steiner hair and beauty salon in 1979/80. A lovely classy lady who was also fondly referred to as ‘Margo’ (a reference to Margo from the television program, The Good Life’) I notice the picture of Lynn Waring. Lynn was the captains secretary during my time on the ship. I actually have photographs of Lynn’s leaving party.
    Such happy memories!

  12. Lynne Ogley says:

    Does anyone know if possible to access original film made on board RMS Queen Mary of last trans-Atlantic voyage? The film crew were actually on board, following our every move, for two voyages – the secnd being the true last trans-Atlantic. I was a lady Assistant Purser during the last two years before the wonderful Old Lady went to Long Beach. I was lucky enough to see the screening and found myself in the film a couple of times — now I have grand-children, I would be .delighted to be able to share it with them. Sadly none of my family ever saw it. Have only ever located film of exterior shots but this was a possibly 10/15 minute film, a good part of it being interior shots. Surely it must still exist – believe it was BBC but unsure. If anyone else has seen it or knows how to locate it, please let me know

  13. mark daly says:

    i was a boy of 6 years old on the june 4 to june 9 1965 from liverpool to montreal emigrating to canada on the
    carinthia and spent most of the time sea sick in bathroom of our cabin.
    i do remember watching a movie on board “the yellow rolls royce”.
    our waiter in the dining room was named Peter and was proberbly in his early twenties.
    being only 6 years old i don’t remember alot but i do remember leaving liverpool and when the ship stopped in quebec city and leaving the ship in montreal and then boarding a train for toronto and my father picking us up in a very rusty 1956
    pontiac pathfinder light blue and rust 4 door.

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