Out of the Box: RMS QUEEN MARY and her New Zealand Connection

Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Ivy Pellow / photographer Michael Willson Courtesy New Zealand Women’s Weekly

At the time of her launch, RMS QUEEN MARY was the gem of the Cunard Line and the largest and fastest ship to be constructed in the UK since the 1920s depression. Aucklander, Ivy Pellow, first saw QUEEN MARY berthed at Southampton in 1936 and undergoing finishing touches before her maiden voyage. A stewardess on BERENGARIA, Ivy next saw QUEEN MARY bound for the UK in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Four years later, she became a stewardess for first class passengers on QUEEN MARY.

QUEEN MARY berthed at Southampton, 1936 / photographer Ivy Pellow. Courtesy Barry Parsons

Ivy ate the same food as passengers, but had to eat in her cabin, which vibrated most of the time because it was situated above the ship’s four propellers. Ivy would collect meals from the galley and return the dishes after she had eaten.  With more than six kilometres of corridors on board Ivy estimates that during her service with the ship, she must have walked the distance between NZ and the UK.

In 1940, Ivy returned to New Zealand with her 3 month old baby when their home was bombed in the blitz. Fifty years later she was interviewed by the New Zealand Women’s weekly about her time working for Cunard on the “World’s Stateliest Ship.”

R.M.S. QUEEN MARY facts and figures / Cunard. On Loan from Barry Parsons

QUEEN MARY departed from Southampton on her maiden voyage on 27th May 1936, arriving in New York on 1st June 1936. The first class dining saloon was said to be the largest room afloat. The Shipbuilder and Marine Engine-builder issue for June 1936 laud the accomplishments of the builder and the internal fit-out. The advertised products were synonymous with quality and promoted everything from light fittings to hair-dressing chairs.  

QUEEN MARY never visited New Zealand. She is now moored at Long Beach, California, a reminder of the romantic age of travel in the 1930s.


Glamour with a capital G by Audrey Gordon.

New Zealand Women’s Weekly, 24 August, 1992: p. 50-51

R.M.S. Queen Mary / Cunard. n.d.

Marleene Boyd