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QE2's passengers waving goodbye
A fond farewell to QE2
BBC South's Transport Correspondent Paul Clifton was the only TV news journalist on board the QE2 as she sailed on November 11. He looks back on the emotional farewell.
Every single passenger - and most of the crew - crammed onto the boat deck, standing on the teak promenade that runs right round the ship.
I was squeezed in between Maureen Ryan and Thomas Quinones. Maureen had worked as a stewardess on the maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1969. "I just had to be here," she said simply. "QE2 has been my life."
Paul Clifton reporting onboard
Thomas has worked on board for 25 years, and his eyes were moist. "I have tried to keep back the tears, to be professional," he said rather shakily as the liner slipped her moorings for the last time. "But this will never happen again. It is the ending of an era."
The day began badly with yet another colourful incident in the liner's already chequered history.
After four decades of successful entrances to her home port, on the 726th and final time she ran aground on the Brambles, a well-known sandbank in the Solent. Although she was refloated on the rising tide, everyone on board took it as evidence that the liner really did not want to leave Southampton.
Passengers wave goodbye for the final time
Ships may not have souls. But the QE2 comes as close as any lump of metal can to having a beating heart. Why? Because many of her crew have been on board for decades. A handful have been there throughout the ship's forty-year life. And many of the passengers have come back dozens of times.
Beatrice Muller even lives on board permanently. She sold her home and has been on QE2 almost full-time for the last 14 years.
As spectacular fireworks burst into the sky overhead, the flashes from tens of thousands of cameras along the shoreline were almost as impressive. The man with a closer connection to the QE2 than anyone else sidled up to me.
Commodore Ron Warwick
Self-effacing as ever, Commodore Ron Warwick pushed a diminutive Australian called Stan towards me. "Talk to him," he said. "He's come half way round the globe just to witness this moment." Stan unfurled an Australian flag and waved it. "QE2 means a lot to the rest of the world, too," he said simply.
Commodore Ron Warwick
But it was the Commodore I really wanted to hear. Cunard Line's most senior sailor, he was for many years Master of QE2. And his father, Bill Warwick, was QE2's first Master, taking her from the Clyde shipbuilders who created the last true ocean going liner. Commodore Warwick is coming out of retirement.
He has a new job - as the captain of the ship once again. On 27th November, QE2 will be handed over to her new owners. Nakheel are property developers in Dubai, and they need someone to oversee the refurbishment of the ship.
"My father put QE2 together," said Commodore Warwick quietly. "And I'm going to take her apart."
QE2 leaving her terminal
If the stories from the crew are correct, the famous funnel will be sliced off and replaced by a four-storey smoked-glass penthouse suite. Another deck will be added at the stern, every cabin replaced and the engine room ripped out to be filled by an entertainment venue.
That's not something the passengers and crew on the final trip down Southampton Water want to see. Surrounded by more small boats and pleasure craft than we could count, this was one of those key moments in a lifetime to savour and to lock away in the memory.
Like millions of other people, for me QE2 has simply always been there, part of the wallpaper of my life. I first saw her on the Clyde as a small boy in 1967 and I've reported her ups and downs for almost twenty years. I shall be in Dubai later this month, but like everyone else I will be very sorry never to see her in Southampton again.
last updated: 19/11/2008 at 16:09