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Cunard Team

Ex-Pursers Staff Reunion in Liverpool

July 4, 2012


Posted in: Cunard Team, Ship's Company

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.

Jean Vickers, Frances Milroy, Rosalie McPherson and Lynn Littler

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. 

Michael Littler, Jill Jones and Beryl Buckley

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 johnesme@btinternet.com -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!

  1. Bill Bradbury says:

    Good to see that the home of Cunard has not been forgotten. Look forward to the 150 celebration in Liverpool with all 3 Queens??????

  2. Rob Holloway says:

    A very informative read and a rich history lesson to hear about your work experience and times with Cunard.
    Well done.

  3. Robert - Hunter Valley says:

    Appreciate the history of the Pursers’ Personnel. They are often forgotten and remembered, when only the subject of enquiry.

    On a general note, any comment on the revival of the QE2 in Dubai. If the commentary is correct, then Passengers and Pursers may be able to voyage on Cunard and stay, overnight or later, on QE2.

    With Cunard, Pursers and Passengers VOYAGE, stay in CABINS and are PASSENGERS.

  4. John Ferguson says:

    Hello Maureen,
    That must have been a great get together! And they become more precious as time goes by. In addition to you, of course, I did recognize names from my days on the Cruise Staff in FRANCONIA, CARMANIA, CARONIA, and, I think four, very special trips in QUEEN ELIZABETH. Keep sailing and writing!

  5. What a lovely read and so pleased to hear it was in Liverpool, rich not only in Cunard martime history, I wish you many more happy reunions.

  6. Jennifer Harrison (formerly Brooke, nee Widdowson) says:

    Many thanks to Maureen for her account of the reunion, which I enjoyed immensely. My first trip with Cunard was from Liverpool on the Sylvania, it must have been 1964, and May Harvey took me to get my Seaman’s card.

  7. Jennifer Harrison (formerly Brooke, nee Widdowson) says:

    Many thanks to Maureen for her account of the reunion, which I enjoyed verymuch. I went to Liverpool in 1964 to join my first ship, the Sylvania, and May Harvey took me to get my seaman’s card.

  8. Brenton Jenkins says:

    Hello Maureen,

    Great coverage of the reunion, thank you. Mentioning very many I knew well. Brings back lots of happy and good memories.

    All the best, Brenton.

  9. Linda Watts (nee McNally) says:

    Hi Maureen, great to read about your reunion and you look just as I remember. I worked in the Purser’s office and as Capain’s Secretary on QE2 between 1980 and 1985 and also recognise many of the names you mention. You might also remember some of the girls in the Purser’s office at that time, Judy Carpenter, Jane Sullivan, Sue Hogg, Tracy Marsh, Janet Attfield and Jean Nash (Travel Bureau) and we still get together every year for our own little reunion – I also still keep in touch with Pauline Sleigh. Best Wishes and I look forward to any further posts you might make. Linda Watts (nee McNally)

  10. ramon says:

    good morning, I received information more than one job from Mr. Anderson michael.
    do you know him?
    who is he?
    He wrote to me on behalf of the Cunard river cruise line.

    Thanks for your prompt response

  11. Would like to have contact with Maureen Ryan and/or John Butt who both appear to be active in organizing ex-Pursers and Cruise Staff reunions. I have returned to live in England after many years in Holland, Belgium, France and Swizerland so can now quite easily attend the reunions in Liverpool or Southampton. Until recently I had contact with Julia Lee (nee Barratt) who kept me posted on these events. Would love to see a few old colleagues from the sixties again. My ex-wife, Joanna Banfield (nee Smith) was a Lady Assitant Purser on board the Queen Elizabeth in 1965 and 1965 and has sailed on both QE2 and the new Queen Mary as a tour leaader for Saga Holidays a few years back.

    I did manage to attend a Cunard Officer’s reunion about six years ago in Worcester where I had the pleasure of meeting many old pals and colleagues e.g. John Read, Dennis Randall, Don Bulmer and many others including medical, radio and deck officers. Quite a few old Captains of the Cunard fleet were there also. Alan Bennell had sadly, passed away shortly before that, he was another good friend of both myself and Joanna.

    The best to you all and hope to see you at the next reunion!
    Philip Turner

  12. Has anyone heard of a purser named Paul Beagan or Beagaw. He did a beautiful sketch of my late husband which is a joy to look at. If no one recalls this gentleman have you any hints on sites I can look on.

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