Cunard Line Celebrates 175 years

Friday, August 7, 2015
Queen Mary 2 visiting Auckland in 2015

What could be more evocative of sea travel today than the names of the three Cunard liners: QUEEN MARY 2, QUEEN ELIZABETH and QUEEN VICTORIA.

Dining in luxury or travelling in a state room with a balcony may seem beyond the means of most people, but each year these ships call at ports around the world and take passengers on a voyage of a lifetime.

In May 2015, the three Queens helped celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cunard Line by steaming together down the Mersey in Liverpool. They were watched by thousands of people who crammed every vantage point to see the ships.

In 1988 while QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 was berthed at Princes Wharf a steady stream of people viewed her from Quay Street. Built in 1969 she still attracted crowds when in port. Her lines are vastly different from those of QUEEN MARY 2.

Ferry Building QE2 1988 - Auckland Harbour Board Collection, NZ Maritime Museum

In 2007 QUEEN MARY 2 made her maiden visit to Auckland and she was welcomed into the harbour by America’s Cup yachts NZL40 and NZL41 and a flotilla of smaller vessels; a unique New Zealand tribute to the ship.

Liz Gordon took this photograph early in the morning of the 17th February.

Our own contribution to the Anniversary in 2015 took place on the 21st March when the NZ Maritime Museum schooner TED ASHBY accompanied QUEEN MARY 2 as she came into Auckland (main image -  photographer Liz Gordon).

Further reading:

Cunard Line website, Three Queens salute Liverpool:

Cunard celebrates. Ships monthly, August 2015, p.33-36

Atlantic liners of the Cunard Line / Neil McCart. Patrick Stephens Ltd, 1990. 240p.


Marleene Boyd, Librarian, Bill Laxon Maritime Library, New Zealand Maritime Museum, June 2015


Cunard Line :  Barry Parsons, an Assistant Purser recalls “the North Atlantic Ferry”.

"Having passed the required typing and French Language tests I was accepted into the Pursers Department of the Cunard Line in April 1959 and appointed to my first ship, the Mauretania, for the summer season of North Atlantic crossings between Southampton and New York.  After a spell as the junior in the First Class office I was generally to be found in Tourist which involved administering to large numbers of Irish passengers as Cobh (the final departure port for the Titanic and also near where the Lusitania was sunk) was a regular port of call.  From November 1959 to April 1960 the Mauretania undertook a series of West Indies cruises from New York.  During the following North Atlantic season I was transferred to the Queen Mary

My next ship, the Saxonia, was also my last with Cunard.  We were on the Southampton to Montreal service in summer, diverting to Halifax and New York when the St. Lawrence River was frozen.  For one voyage I sailed in the Ivernia where my father was Chief Radio Officer.  It was a Cunard wartime rule not to employ two people from one family in one ship.  This remained 'Company Policy' and my appointment upset the Ivernia's Purser.  I managed to be appointed to the Crew Pursers office, out of sight and – hopefully – out of mind!  It was my only experience in Crew which I found more to my liking than being on display to the passengers every day.  One of the crew had recently been on a ship plying the UK to NZ run and had greatly enjoyed his time “on the coast” in this country.  His remarks provided me with food for thought....

Barry Parsons manning the First Class Pursers Office on SAXONIA, 1961.

Back in the 1st Class Office of the Saxonia I was expected to balance the till each evening.  This involved calculations in currency exchange between the pound Sterling, the Irish pound, French new francs and U.S. and Canadian dollars.  The results had to satisfy the Purser.  This task relieved me of some of the more usual duties of passenger entertainment, for which I was grateful.  In some Cunarders the Junior Assistant Pursers were expected to remain on duty until midnight.  In the Saxonia the juniors could disappear after our stint at bingo or horse-racing and were not required to grace the dance floor.  I enjoyed my time with Cunard but when I learned the Purser was to move to another ship at the end of 1961 the time seemed opportune for me to pursue my seafaring career in a less formal atmosphere.  This led me to the New Zealand Shipping Company.

I cannot say I never looked back.  My father sailed in Cunarders for the first 30 years of my life so the company had a major influence on my upbringing and choice of career.  An even greater and longer lasting influence came from a Lady Assistant Purser who had to share office duties with me in the Saxonia in 1961.  She was to become, and remains, my wife."

Barry Parsons

Barry Parsons