“At 5.45 am she was first descried away out on the horizon, due south, and almost directly in the centre of Mount's Bay, just a mere shadow against the dull clouds.
At 6.10am she turned, and made her way back towards the Lizard, enveloped in a cloud of smoke.”
She was the new Cunard-White Star liner “Queen Mary”, launched on 26 September 1934 after a difficult birth which had seen her sit for two and a half years, part-finished, in the yard of John Brown & Co on Clydeside. Financial problems saw government loans extended to owners Cunard on condition that they merged with financially troubled White Star Line, a deal which led to the creation of Cunard-White Star who now had the funds to complete construction of hull 534, the vessel which was to become Queen Mary.
But none of these awkward financial considerations were of any concern to the thousands who flocked to the fringes of Mount's Bay to see the new pride of the fleet. Let The Cornishman reporter, stationed on Raginnis Hill, take up the story: “She kept a course directly head-on to Raginnis Hill.
As she swiftly drew nearer and nearer, the white water could be seen dashing away from her bows, and her white bridge loomed up in front, but only one funnel was visible, showing that she was coming straight towards the headland.
The reporter describes how the ship got to within about 4 miles and then turned, “broadside on to the shore, and her full length on the starboard side was exposed.” Completing her turn she disappeared behind her own smoke.
Having given the usual list of dignitaries who were on board for this first voyage as a passenger carrying ship The Cornishman then proceeded to give some comparisons, beginning with one of local appeal. Were she to be placed in Market Jew Street she would stretch from the bottom of the Market House to Adelaide Street, a full 339 yards. Were one of her funnels to be placed on the ground on its side three express locomotives would be able to pass through abreast. Her height from keel to funnel top is comparable to Big Ben and so the list goes on though the 70 tons of meat, 20 tons of fish, 4,000 chickens and ducks and 30 tons of potatoes which are carried to the 20,000 packets of cigarettes and 5,000 cigars which will be smoked.
She generates more electricity than is used by the whole of West Penwith, enough to supply a town like Brighton. West Penwith and the “Queen” are worlds apart, all they have in common is the sea. And while the bon vivants aboard the Cunarder sail the Atlantic in luxury the people of Cornwall sail the oceans in desperation looking for relief from economic catastrophe.
Cornishman 21 May 1936