January 2, 2013
On the last Saturday of September, we gathered at the Park Hotel Southampton to meet for cocktails and dinner – all colleagues who had lived closely during years gone by whilst working on board numerous ships of Cunard Line.
By 6.15pm the bar was filling up – lovely to see many friends who live locally arriving for the evening, including David Holden, who I remember from the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ and ‘Cunard Countess’. David’s wife Margaret was also at sea, and he served until 1989, retiring as Hotel Manager. Richard Ahl crossed over from the Isle of Wight to join us and it was great to see Winifred Bosworth, who I remember well from the ‘Queen Elizabeth’. Ian Sumpner sailed during the 60’s and he arrived from his home at Portsmouth. Clinking of glasses, so many conversations, so much catching up to do, news of former colleagues. In contrast to the locals, many travel long distances to see each other. This year top prize for long distance Assistant Purser goes to Peter Quinn who regularly comes over from Canada to join the meetings. Sally Freeman came from Yorkshire.
We first met during a 5 month cruising season out of Fort Lauderdale in 1965/66 on ‘Carmania’. I remember we all dressed as Edwardians for a joint birthday party, which we held out on the deck. Between each cruise in those days we had an overnight in port, so time to party in the balmy Florida night – those were the days!
And some others from further afield – John Jarman from Felixstowe and Peter Clay from North Wales. Also Bill Loughnane and Frank Heseltine travelled from Liverpool, birthplace of Cunard. Frank was a Baggage Master at sea for many years and sailed on ‘Saxonia’ which became ‘Carmania’. Since leaving the sea he has continued to be very busy with the Neston Nomads F.C. being the inspiration behind the development of the club 30 years ago. He is President of the club and has been nominated Volunteer of the Year in the Wirral. At Christmas he is to be seen distributing his personal gift of chocolate to local children, complete in Father Christmas outfit – I’m sure he makes a great Santa Claus! Terry Foskett arrived from France, where he now lives. He served with Cunard for many years, since joining in April 1972. He spent five years on ‘Cunard Princess’ and 27 years on ‘QE2’, retiring as Chief Purser in 2004. Apart from dealing with the Pursers duties, he was sometimes seen, in the late evenings, singing with one of the bands, (he has a great voice) including the Nelson Riddle Orchestra! Jennie, his daughter, is now Guest Services Manager on ‘QE’ and his son-in-law is the 1st Officer on ‘QE’, so the Foskett presence is still very much in Cunard.
Finally, we sat down to dinner. Sitting on my right were David and Carole Taylor. David was a stage manager in 1967 when he joined Cunard as an A/P on ‘Queen Mary’ and ‘Carmania’. This was followed by Teacher Training College, but after final exams, the lure of the sea was too great and he joined ‘QE2’ in 1970, and then ‘Cunard Ambassador’. In 1974, he joined the Royal Fleet Auxillary as Purser, finally leaving in 1988. But the sea called again, and he rejoined Cunard as Cruise Staff in 1995 on ‘QE2’, where we worked together, followed by the ‘Sagafjord’. Then David decided to finally ‘swallow the anchor’, the reason being that in 1995 on ‘QE2’ he had met Carole, dancing in the Queens Room, and they married in 2001, settling in the New Forest – an eventful life David! Lovely to see Hermione (Pantling) and Harry Dormer, who travelled all the way down from Flamborough. Harry was a Deck Officer and Hermione a Lady A/P for many years, including the ‘Queen Elizabeth’, where they met.
Muriel Arnold, looking great, travelled from Lincolnshire. After years as a Lady A/P, Muriel left the sea and has travelled extensively on passenger/cargo ships. She is a published author, one of her most successful books being ‘Tiaras and Teeshirts’ – a behind the scenes look at life on great liners. Her latest book, ‘Libya in Limbo’ about her experiences working as a secretary in Libya, is a great read. Many congratulations to Muriel and keep writing!
At the end of dinner, Jon Firth and Bill Loughnane addressed the meeting, Jon thanking everyone for coming – he will be departing to Australia for the winter, where he lived for 25 years, and visiting many ex-pursers staff who live ‘down under’. Afterwards, many of us then drifted to the bar for continued clinking of glasses!
On the Saturday afternoon Sally Freeman, Jane (Leat) Lucas and myself walked round in Southampton, a city much changed since we were first at sea in the 60’s – a time when transatlantic liners were a regular sight in the docks. Then life changed, many ships went out of service, the docks were quiet, ‘QE2’ the only transatlantic liner in regular service. But, now passenger ships are so popular again, the docks are busy and, most importantly, Cunard has three great Queens in service, sailing regularly from Southampton in keeping with the tradition of decades.
All too soon, it was time to say our good-byes and return to our present day lives, always a tinge of sadness. But its lovely that so many of us keep in touch and we can, for a short while, every so often, meet and relive the special years when we were part of the Cunard story.
Thank you to Jon Firth for all his efforts in bringing us together, and to Jill (Williams) Jones for liasing with the hotel, our menu choices and keeping us all in touch on e-mail. It was a lovely meeting at the Park Hotel, Southampton
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!
PARK HOTEL SOUTHAMPTON
27/28 SEPTEMBER 2013