November 15, 2011
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Guest Stories
Guest Blog: Maureen Ryan, Former Social Hostess
Over a warm, sunny weekend at the start of October this year, 74 of us gathered at the Mercure Dolphin Hotel in Southampton for the yearly Pursers Reunion – men and women who had been part of the Pursers staff on board Cunard ships over several decades. They arrived from Australia (Ted Finch), the Irish Republic (Eddie Peregrine), Canada (Peter Quinn), Northern Ireland (Bertie Hosford, wife of Harry) and from areas throughout the UK, to socialise for a couple of days with colleagues who at one time, years ago, were part of their everyday lives, working together on board the Cunard ships.
By 6.30pm on Saturday evening the bar was packed – some who lived locally were still arriving and it was great to see David and Margaret Holden, Margaret Newcombe and David and Carole Taylor. The conversation buzzed and snippets of conversation reached my ears – ‘I remember first joining in 1961 on ‘Queen Mary’, and I was so seasick’………… ‘Do you remember the Lady A/P in the Tourist Class Pursers Office on the ‘Sylvania’ – what was her name?’ ……..’Were you on the ‘Elizabeth’ on her last transatlantic?’ ….. so many memories. I glance across the room and see Sally Freeman chatting with Frank Heseltine and his wife Pat – ‘Carmania’, winter 1965-66 – great beach parties…..
Dinner followed and then Jon Firth said a few words, followed by John Butt who thanked Jon for doing such a great job over the year, getting in touch with so many people for the reunion. Then George Read told of how he joined the Pursers Office on Queen Mary in 1946, after returning from war service in the Far East. He travelled home on the ‘Georgic’, a Cunard-White Star troop ship. Margaret Newcombe also joined Cunard after war service, in 1948, on the lovely Aquitania, the last of the four funnelled ships, which was in service from 1914-1949. Also present was Barbara Peden (Moore, wife of Harry) who was in Queen Mary in the early 1950’s. She had brought to the meeting a small album of black and white photos – it was like stepping back into another age. Lovely to see Muriel Arnold again who, after many years with Cunard, has become a published author, one of her most successful books being ‘Tiaras and T-Shirts’, a story of life on a great ship. Also, Jeff and Barbara Baggot (Sennitt) who sailed together on ‘Mauretania’ as Assistant Pursers and are one of the many couples to ‘tie the knot’ after life on Cunard. I remember sailing with Tony Babington on ‘Queen Elizabeth’ – he came to the Reunion with his wife Josephine. They met on QE2, during the Maiden Voyage when Josephine was one of the first Computer Experts on board in 1969. So many people gathered together, with such a wealth of experience and knowledge of Cunard Line. As ever, conversation and clinking glasses lasted well into the night!
From left to right: Jeff and Barbara Baggot (Sennitt), Jill Jones (Williams) with Tony Babington, Jon Firth and Peter Quinn
And suddenly, it was over. Sunday morning, long good-byes in the lobby, cars disappearing into the distance, everyone departing to their own lives.
But what a tribute to Cunard Line that so many of us, in our mature years, still feel part of the company, hold such memories, and have sustained special friendships, that we travel long distances to be together.
Many thanks again to Jon Firth, who is returning to Australia for the winter, where he lived and worked for 25 years after leaving Cunard – have a great time Jon meeting up with all the ex –Pursers Staff who are now living ‘Down Under’!
And a big ‘thank you’ to Jill Jones (Williams) for all her hard work helping to arrange the weekend.
Finally, thank you to Hemione Dormer (Pantling) for providing the great photos of the Reunion. Harry Dormer was a Deck Officer and met Hermione, a Lady A/P, on ‘Queen Elizabeth’.
Until the next time……….
(Atlantic Hotel, Liverpool – 11/12 May 2012) (Park Hotel, Southampton – 28/29 September, 2012)
SEE YOU THERE!