July 4, 2012
Guest Blog – Maureen Ryan
On 12 May, 2012, 29 ex-members of the Pursers Staff gathered at the Atlantic Tower Hotel, Liverpool. For several years our reunions had taken place further south, at venues in Warwick, Southampton and Lyndhurst. So this year it was decided to go ‘North’ to meet colleagues who had so loyally made the journey south many times. And, of course, go back to the home of Cunard Line.
As ever, we gathered in the bar for pre-dinner drinks, as people arrived, quite a few locals and some from further afield, including John Cartwright – John was with Cunard from the late 50’s to early 60’s serving on Ivernia and Saxonia, then became an air pilot and now lives in California. Lovely to see Keith and Margaret Gledhill. Keith left Cunard in the late 50’s, before my time, but over the years I’ve met them on QE2, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth and QM2 when they were enjoying holidays with Cunard. Keith was one of the speakers last September in Liverpool Cathedral, when Queen Elizabeth made her maiden call to the city. Also, Keith served as Vice Lord- Lieutenant of Lancashire a few years back. Such a lovely surprise to see Jean Vickers (nee Calder) wife of the late Brian Vickers. Jean was a Lady Assistant Purser before she married Brian. Many of us will remember what a great character Brian was, such fun and a true gentleman. Brian was Cruise Director for the Maiden Voyage of QE2 and served for many years on that ship as Purser and Hotel Manager, retiring in 1987.
Peter Gerhard attended with his wife Marjorie. Peter served a few years in Cunard until 1955, when he left to become a teacher, and subsequently a headmaster. Some of the other early post-war Cunarders were John Cook (1957-63), George Read, who joined Queen Mary in 1947, and made his last voyage on Carinthia as Tourist Purser in 1967. Jon Firth was also on the Purser’s staff during George’s retiring trip – I expect that was quite a voyage! Denis Randall was present with Glenys his wife. Denis left the ships in the early 60’s when he was a Senior A/P. Glenys worked in the Sea Pay Department in Liverpool Office. Charlie Sutherland joined in 1946, and became Crew Purser on Queen Mary and Bill Haig was also there, chatting away – he left Cunard in 1962. The conversation flowed, everyone circling around, catching up. I managed to have a few words with Frank Heseltine and his wife Pat – Frank was a wonderful Baggage Master and member of the Purser’s team. Many happy memories of winter cruising in Carmania…John Jarman left Cunard in the middle 60’s to join North Sea Ferries but obviously loves to keep in touch with Cunard friends by coming to meetings! Lynn Littler (nee Waring) who I remember from the QE and QE2, was there with her husband Michael. Lynn was a Lady A/P, Captain’s Secretary and Social Directress over many years before she married Michael.
Finally, we sat down to dinner at a huge long table. Rosalie McPherson (nee Fowler) was sitting on my left. I remember being berthed in the two very small cabins above Promenade Deck on QE, with Rosie as my companion – they were like two small couchettes! Beryl Buckley (nee Barber), and Ethel Sutton (nee Earnshaw) were seated close by and Jill Jones (nee Williams), who did so much to organise this meeting, was on my right. Lovely to see Frances Milroy, looking great, the first female to hold the position of Hotel Manager before she retired in 1990. Faces from Carmania, 1965 – Chris Woolley and Peter Clay, across the table chatting away. And Dickie Gibson, who joined Cunard in 1943 as a Deck Rating on Franconia 11 which in 1945 became Winston Churchill’s base at the Yalta Conference. Dickie then became a Baggage Master and part of the Purser’s Team, serving many years. I remember him from QE2. He brought to the meeting a fabulous photo album which we all much enjoyed – great photos.
Bill Loughnane, who served late 50’s to late 60’s spoke at the end of dinner, introducing Jon Firth, who, as always, has done a great job networking and getting in touch with everyone. I remember Bill very kindly showing me around the Mauretania one summer afternoon in the mid 60’s, when she and the Queen Elizabeth were berthed close together in New York – what a beautiful ship and what happy days! ……After dinner more drinks, more chat until the early hours.
Sunday morning and time to say goodbye once again. A lovely get-together and great to see so many colleagues that had not been to a ‘Southern ’meeting for some time.
At this point I would like to mention a lady well known to many of us, Elizabeth Sayers. Elizabeth was born at the end of April 1912, a couple of weeks after the Titanic disaster, and passed away at the end of last year. During the Second World War, Elizabeth was a Wren Officer and was posted to India as part of Mountbatten’s staff. She joined Cunard in 1948 as a Lady Assistant Purser, and then became Social Directress for many years. I have very fond memories of her kindness and wonderful sense of humour when I met her on Queen Elizabeth.
John Butt, Ted Finch, Peter Quinn, May Harvey, and Mike Constant all sent their apologies at not being able to join the meeting. We hope to see them in September at Southampton.
I took time to walk out along to the Pier Head and Albert Dock. The City of Liverpool looked just great. One of the doors of the Cunard Building was open so I mounted the steps and had a look into the hall of what was really the very heart of Cunard Line for so many years. The building is magnificent – the architecture, stone work, the atmosphere. Years of maritime history come from those walls and the docks outside – one can just imagine Samuel Cunard striding towards a ship, perhaps the Britannia waiting to sail in 1840. Or in later years, the first Mauretania embarking her passengers for New York or much more recent memories, of myself arriving on Carinthia from Montreal, 6.00am arrival as we passed the chiming Pier Head clock.
A big thank you to Jon Firth for getting us all together, and also to Jill Jones for all her very hard work, particularly with the menu choices and for keeping us all informed. Many, many thanks to you both.
Finally, Jon is keen to hear from any past Assistant Pursers who served with Cunard, and might like to be in touch – please contact John Butt on firstname.lastname@example.org -it’s always great for us to hear of our ex-colleagues!
So, until 29 and 30 September, 2012 – Park Hotel Southampton – See you there!