Dark cloud hangs over former Clyde steamer

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AN UNCERTAIN future awaits one of the largest and most fondly-recalled members of the Firth of Clyde steamer fleet this month.

The turbine steamer Queen Mary, launched from Denny’s of Dumbarton in 1933, will be sold off by Capital Marine Auctions on August 24 after a planned move to France fell through.

The Queen Mary, withdrawn from Clyde service by Caledonian MacBrayne in 1977, spent eight years laid up on the Clyde and a further 20 as a floating restaurant on the Thames in central London before being sold to a developer who planned to convert the ship to a luxury hotel, to be moored at the port of La Rochelle on the French Atlantic coast.

But after being towed away from her berth at the Embankment beneath Waterloo Bridge in November 2009, the steamer - the last surviving member of the Clyde turbine fleet, and one of the last surviving ships anywhere in the world to have been built with steam turbine engines - made it no further than Tilbury in Kent, where she has languished ever since.

Enthusiast Gordon Stewart formed the Clyde Turbine Steamer Foundation in an unsuccessful attempt to buy, move and gift the ship to two major maritime museums in Scotland when she last became available for sale.

“Queen Mary has a hugely important, though largely unrecognised, place, in world marine engineering history as well as Clydeside’s social history,” Mr Stewart told The Buteman.

“She has served successfully as a restaurant and function suite in London and has the potential to do so elsewhere.

“She would make a magnificent exhibition and learning facility for Clyde shipping history alongside other local attractions and there is always the potential for her to be returned to service in the longer term if economic circumstances permit.

“It is important that someone comes forward with a project to safeguard the ship with these things in mind and she has many admirers willing to support a suitable proposal.”

Mr Stewart, whose TS Queen Mary website can be found at http://turbinesteamers.freehos tia.com/QueenMary.htm, is anxious to hear from anyone with a serious proposal to save the ship - he can be emailed at tramscape@ntlworld.com.