Tears for a regal lady
Considering the UK’s status as a once proud and leading maritime nation, whose global power and influence owed much to its Royal Navy and Merchant Navy, the treatment of our maritime heritage is, to my mind, lamentable. Yes, we do preserve and protect some of our historic ships, but these tend, in the main, to be of the RN, although the wonderful tea clipper Cutty Sark (Clyde built) at her berth at Greenwich is an example of preservation at its most creative. Around the British coast, dedicated teams, mainly consisting of volunteers, work hard to keep ships such as the PS Waverley and the SS Shieldhall sailing, but it is a constant struggle to sustain the financial support to do so.
But what of the cargo liners or the tramp ships of the last great age of the British merchant navy? Containerisation swept such vessels into the pages of history, yet scandalously there are no examples of any being successfully preserved as a significant and noteworthy part of our maritime heritage. Pleasingly, we can still visit one of the most famous passenger liners of the 20th century - RMS Queen Mary, but you will have to travel to the port of Long Beach, California, USA to see her.
In Britain, ancient and treasured buildings are listed and protected. Some are acquired and opened to the public, with their upkeep and restoration financed on an ongoing basis. Important works of art are sometimes bought at great expense on behalf of the nation to prevent their export. These actions I fully support and admire. Interestingly, in America the old Queen Mary is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the National Trust for Historic Preservation has accepted the Queen Mary to be part of the Historic Hotels of America.
In contrast, the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) is lying forlornly at a berth in Dubai with the grandiose plans for her conversion yet to be fulfilled. The QE2 was the last great passenger liner built in a British shipyard - Upper Clyde Shipbuilders at the famous John Brown Shipyard on the River Clyde. The former flagship of the Cunard Line (1969- 2004), she has lain in Dubai for about five years.
I believe this magnificent vessel, which was the pride of the Cunard fleet and served the nation with distinction during the Falklands War in 1982, should never have left this country when her career as a transatlantic liner/cruise liner was over. She should be lying resplendent at a highly visible berth on the Clyde (her birthplace) or at Southampton (her home port) as a powerful reminder of a time when British shipbuilders still had the capacity and skills to build large, sophisticated passenger liners. Such a celebration of our great maritime heritage would, I am sure, become a significant visitor attraction.
The Sea Breezes team wish all our readers a safe, healthy and happy 2015.HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR