September 12, 2007


This historical story from:

"SCOTS shipyard workers stole so many fittings from the QE2 that the giant liner was not ready for passengers in time, a TV programme reveals.

Carpets, mattresses, doors and bed linen were among the pilfered haul which caused a three-week delay to vital sea trials. And some workers vandalised baths and toilets.

The QE2 was built at John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde for owners Cunard and launched by the Queen in September 1967.
At least one man was prosecuted for theft at the time - but now 40 years later, the true extent of the stealing is revealed in a BBC Scotland documentary about the ship. Maitre d' hotel David Chambers, who was a 22-year-old waiter at the time, helped other crew take supplies on to the ship at the dry dock in Greenock, Renfrewshire. Now 61, he says he watched amazed as mattresses and other items were stolen. He said: "There were about 20 of us carrying hundreds and hundreds of mattresses on board. "I remember somebody pointing to the other end of the quay and asking 'look down there, why are there mattresses going off the ship?'. "Somebody was purloining them and taking them off again.

"They were coming off almost as fast as we were bringing them on board. One man said he was taking them because they were the wrong size, but they were being stolen. "It wasn't just mattresses - people took doors home. "Some people carpeted their homes it was said, while I remember clearly others took sheets and pillow cases with Cunard written across them. "When we were in Southampton, we heard one man was prosecuted in Scotland, but there were many more people at it."

David added: "Some workers saw it as a perk of the job. Not a lot of it came to light until the crew started talking one day in the crew bar, and we all shared our stories."

The QE2 had to be complete, including her luxury interiors, before sea trials could start off Arran. And David reveals some workmen were so concerned for their jobs after the QE2 was completed that they reacted by smashing up fixtures and fittings. David said: "One weekend, we were stood down. And when we returned on the Monday, all the baths and toilets on one deck had been smashed because the workmen just didn't want to let the ship go.

"You could understand it from their point of view because it was their last big ship. "She was the last big liner to be built and they knew they weren't going to get another one so they were trying to save their jobs. "We used to go to a pub near Central Station at night, and all they talked about was the QE2 going and the fact they would all be out of work.

"The Glasgow shipyards were renowned and there was great pride that the ship was built there. "But it was serious. They were desperate."

Historian Ian Johnston added: "When the QE2 left Clydebank in November 1968, she was on time, which was a proud boast. "Prince Charles was on the bridge with John Ranny, the shipyard manager, and Sir Basil Smallpiece, chairman of Cunard. "But so too were several hundred joiners who were working on the cabins which were incomplete. "When they got to Greenock, there was a tremendous effort to try to conceal the fact that the ship wasn't quite finished."

The 70,327 tons, 963ft liner - which made its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York - was the flagship of the Cunard line until she was succeeded by the Queen Mary 2 in 2004. The QE2 is still one of the fastest passenger vessels ever built, with a top speed of 34 knots. She has cruised six million miles and will be retired next year.

She will return to Glasgow on September 20 as part of her 40th anniversary cruise.
QE2 - The Last Great Liner will be aired on Monday on BBC2 Scotland. "

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