24 March 2009

See Ye Efter!



On this day in 1936, the RMS Queen Mary departed John Brown's Shipyard in the Firth of Clyde for open sea and drydock in Southampton. The ship had been in Clydebank, Scotland, since her keel was laid in December 1930. Thousands were on hand to witness her departure, cheering as the ship moved slowly out of her tight quarters at the builder's yard. After four blasts of her horns, tugs pulled her into position where her propellers churned the water to white foam. 

According to the Canberra Times, "The vessel was at a complete standstill for half an hour before it negotiated the double Beardmare Bend, a quarter of a mile from the shipyards. Sunshine changed to clouds and the smoke from the liner's funnels swirled down the river like a fog. Pilots directed the operations by means of electric loud speakers at either end of the ship. The tugs had to exert all of their engine power to keep the Queen Mary in position. The crowd remained quiet until the bend was successfully negotiated..."

Though the Clyde had been dredged to accommodate the giant liner, she went aground twice--the first time fore and aft, the second time only the stern touching bottom--but inspection revealed no damage to her keel. Along the way, her booming whistle sounded twice in salute, first for a statue of Henry Bell, builder of the first steamboat on the Clyde, and then for a school built in memory of Clydesider, James Watt, inventor of the steam engine. The Mary anchored that evening at Tail-of-Bank, off Gourock, where her anchor was tested and her compasses adjusted, before continuing the following day the 14-mile journey to Southampton.  

Sources:
Canberra Times
New York Times

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