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Cunard Ambassadors

Pursers Reunion – September 2013

November 25, 2013


Posted in: Cunard Ambassadors

By Maureen Ryan

Every year the former Cunard Assistant Pursers meet for a weekend to catch up and reminisce about years gone by at the Pursers Reunion. At the end of September a group of 38 of us met at the Park Hotel in Southampton to have dinner and raise a glass or two. It was a chance for us to talk and tell tales of sea-going, reaching back into the years of the great liners and the glamour era of transatlantic travel.

On the Saturday evening we met in the bar before dinner. It was lovely to see John Butt, who joined Cunard in 1955 as a Purser’s Clerk, and went through the ranks, serving on the Queens, Britannic, Caronia and the Canadian ships. He then became a Cruise Director, serving on Franconia, Cunard Princess, Cunard Countess, and the Ambassador, where he helped evacuate the ship when it caught fire.  And, of course, he spent many years on QE2, a charismatic and popular Cruise Director. He married Esme, a Social Directress on QE2, and they have two daughters, and three grand-children – the fourth one about to arrive!

It was great to see John Palmer. He served on several ships and became Chief Purser on QE2 before becoming Hotel Manager on Cunard Countess. After many years living in Spain, John has now married and settled in Norfolk!

Rosalynd (Wilson) Naylor joined as a Lady Assistant Purser in 1963 and left in 1964 before reaching her 21st birthday – possibly the youngest Lady Assistant Purser ever! She sailed on Mauretania with Marjorie (Cassell) Sharpe, who married Gerry, a Radio Officer.

Eddie Peregrine, who I remember from the original Queen Elizabeth, arrived from Dublin with his wife Sheila, a violinist who played with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Dublin. John Firth was their best man at the wedding in Dublin. Eddie went into the banking world, where he is still a banking consultant in retirement – lovely to see him and to meet Sheila.

Winifred (Hearn) Bosworth sailed from 1961-72 and has been a long standing supporter of our reunions. She is now living outside Southampton – she’s such a lively and interesting raconteur.

Everyone has so many memories to share – these are just some of the snippets I heard during the evening… “like that time we went ashore in Cherbourg to buy cheese for the party, only just made it back in time for sailing. Senior Assistant Purser was not amused!”… “Do you remember that night, the weather was so awful and we ran a Ladies Night down in Cabin Class”… “My first voyage in the Travel Bureau, I oversold on the Boat Train tickets” and “I really enjoyed the overnights in New York, going to that diner in the Village”.

Several made long journeys to be with us, including Frank Heseltine and Bill Loughnane from Liverpool, Sally Freeman, and Hermoine and Harry Dormer from Yorkshire, Peter Clay from North Wales, Roy Donaldson from Manchester, Rosie (Fowler) McPhearson from Norfolk and Muriel Arnold from Lincolnshire. Round the tables at dinner, I saw many familiar faces including Dave Holden, Ian Sumpner, Pam Webb, Jane (Leat) Lucas, Tony and Josephine Babington, David and Carole Taylor, Roy Donaldson and Julia (Barratt) Lee.

A card was signed for Peter Quinn’s family – Peter had hoped to be with us but sadly passed away shortly before the meeting. After life at sea, Peter held a senior position with Emirates Airlines in Dubai for 13 years, then returned to Vancouver, from where he travelled regularly to our reunions.

Following dinner, conversation flowed, Tony Kirk popped in to say hello, and glasses clinked until the early hours.

I would like to thank Jill (Williams) Jones for all her hard work arranging the meeting, and also to John Firth for helping to bring us together. We all wish him a great winter in Perth, Australia, and send fond ‘hellos’ to many ex-Pursers Office staff ‘Down Under’ who he will be visiting. I’d also like to thank Hermione (Pantling) Dormer once again for taking some great photos during the meeting.

It’s always a nostalgic moment on Sunday morning, when farewells ring across the hotel lobby, cars pull away and we all return to our present lives. But, good news – a meeting has been planned for next May in Liverpool – a great chance to meet up with colleagues living up north.


  1. Roger Waterfall says:

    Very much enjoyed reading this article Maureen.
    From the snippets of conversation mentioned, I would have loved to have been a ‘fly one the wall’ to hear the full storeys.

    (In 1962 I almost joined your ranks, being accepted for the trainee purser scheme in Cunard Building, Liverpool. Unfortunately, before being assigned, the board decided to withdraw several ships from service and suspend the trainee purser scheme. My father consoled me with “sometimes these disappointments work out for the best” he was right.
    Since then I have had an enjoyable life traveling the world in other branches of the travel industry, we have similar reunions to yours as ‘Old ABTArians’)

    Enjoy your next Reunion in Liverpool and please post on “We are Cunard” again.

    PS. I did eventually get to sea in 2001, working on Hebridean Spirit.

  2. Narguesse Stevens says:

    What a marvellous life at sea you and your colleagues must have had on board the world’s greatest ships. I salute you all. I had the luck to be on board the QE2 on her entire Final World Cruise in 2008. Unforgettable times.W

  3. Frances Barts says:

    Would love to hear news about Lawson Connell and John Gow. Thanks

  4. I would love to hear from anyone who remembers me!

  5. Helena Duggan says:

    Hi, my father was a radio officer with Cunard and during one of my trips to sea with him I befriended John Gow who must have had endless patience with 10 year old girl!! He left a lovely gift for me when he left the Cunard Countess and I never got the chance to thank him.

  6. Luke Campbell says:

    I was not a Purser however I interacted with the Bureau between 1970 and 1973 when in the Lower Regent Street office where in the latter years I was senior in the Berthing Department and consequently travelled to Southampton for most departures. The three and a half years were amongst my happiest. The only name I remember, shocking as that is, was Pat (I think) Fison who came from Wollongong in Australia. I was from Sydney. Another name I remember from the office was John Coux; Sir Basil Smallpiece was managing Director and Lord Mancroft was Chairman.

    Nothing but brilliant memories of my time at Cunard.

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