Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The lights of the QE2 powered out almost like a small town.

Queen Elizabeth 2 (<span class=QE2)" style="border: medium none ; display: block;" width="240" height="109">Image by Michael McDonough via Flickr

The Queen Elizabeth the second was launched in September 1967 and in November of the following year it sailed into the Firth of Clyde to carry out its sea trials, and, as we were working off the Arran coast, I took my camera with me in case she came close enough to get a clear photo of her with my Kodak Instamatic. On the first week of her trials she steamed down into the Irish sea but most nights she would return to Greenock to carry out any adjustments to the small problems that arose, hence the reason for the trials. We heard reports of her every move through the media, but a clear, close up sight of her eluded us for the first week as she always seemed to slip down past us in the distance during the dark winter mornings of November, and the only sign we could see of her was her lights illuminated against the grey outline of the Arran shore. Although large tankers moved up and down the Clyde the mass of lights the QE2 powered out, almost like a small town made her unmistakable, and as I watched her glide south I longed to see her in daylight to admire with my own eyes the beautiful structure I had seen on the television news broadcasts.
My wishes came true the following week when she started her speed trials on the measured mile off Arran's northeast shore. As we began shooting our gear on a Monday morning, we spied her sailing out of the mouth of the River Clyde, and as she neared, the impact of this 70,327 tons of sheer beauty with its black hull, white superstructure and the distinctive red funnel of The Cunard Line, struck us all with awe, so much so that we almost forgot what WE were about until my uncle drew our attention to the fact the net was about to go over the side. As we continued fishing that day, our direction took us further away from the measured mile but we could still see her in the distance going at full steam ahead, first north then south as they timed her over the famous mile that so many, of the ships from John Browns yard had confirmed their speed, such as the Queens, Mary and Elizabeth before her.
I had managed to take some photos of her from a distance but even with its immense size I thought it was still too far away to see it in all its glory but undeterred after two weeks, and a spool used up between the QE2 and other fishing boats I took the camera ashore to get the film developed, but forgot to bring the camera with me when we went back to sea.
Sure enough "SOD'S LAW" in the afternoon on our first day back the Queen Elizabeth 2 came close enough for us to see the men on the bridge and the workmen still caring out some finishing touches around the decking areas, and even in through its portholes where we could see more workmen scurrying about, perfecting the inside to the standard fit for the millionaires that were to grace its plush amenities. My heart thumped as I watched her steam slowly past us, giving me time to study all her wondrous features at close range and thought to myself how lucky I was to be able to say that The Queen Elizabeth passed close by us on that November afternoon.
We got plenty more sightings of her near, and far before she eventually completed her trials and left for her maiden voyage.
I never did get a good photo of her and when I got the pictures back from the developers even the distant ones were so far away, that all that was visible was an indistinguishable dot on the horizon.
The photos, had they transpired, would have been to show other people proof of my close encounter with the most beautiful ship to sail the seas, but the vision of her and the memories of that time will always be embedded in my mind.
I was sad when I heard she was being decommissioned to end her life as a floating hotel in Dubai but glad in the fact that at least she was still around for people to appreciate the great craftsmanship of the Clyde shipbuilders.
About five years ago I crossed the forth road bridge when the new Queen Mary was docked just below and stopped to get some pictures of her but grand as she might be she cannot hold a candle to her predecessor "The Queen Elizabeth 2."
Sentimental I might be, but anyone who was lucky enough to compare them would agree with me because as the saying goes "THEY DON'T BUILD THEM LIKE THAT ANY MORE."

The top picture is of beacons on the measured mile that can clearly be seen from the sea.
The other two speak for themselves.

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  1. Interesting article as usual. I've seen the QE2 and you are right, what an amzing ship.

  2. Amazing I always wondered how something so big stays afloat.

    Dorothy from grammology

  3. I never did see her, thanks for the memories of your sightings, how lovely.

  4. wow.. you are such an author.. nicely written..