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RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde (1936)

Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive

Main image of RMS Queen Mary Leaves the Clyde (1936)
16mm, Kodachrome, 2 mins (restored extract)
Film shot byJames Blair

The iconic Cunard White Star liner leaves the shipyard of her birth and ventures seawards for the first time.

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On 25 March 1936, the Cunard White Star liner RMS Queen Mary, under her own power for the first time, left the river of her birth en route to Southampton and her maiden voyage.

Launched at John Brown's shipyard on the River Clyde on 26 September 1934 by Her Majesty Queen Mary, the liner was now ready to take her place in service on the transatlantic route.

The eyes of the world were upon both her and Clydeside that day. At 80,000 tons, 1018 ft in length, with a top speed of over 30 knots, Queen Mary was the largest and fastest passenger liner in the world.

Thousands came from miles around to witness her voyage down river. She was by now the symbol of survival of the worst years of the Depression, and the pride of Clydeside. Amongst the spectators the film cameras lined up to record the occasion - newsreel men, and amateurs with home movie cameras. A few of the amateurs had got hold of the latest innovation in home cine - 16mm Kodachrome reversal colour stock. Released in the USA by Kodak the year before, supplies of the new film stock had only the same month arrived in Glasgow.

Those who were lucky enough to obtain a spool of the precious colour stock husbanded it carefully. It was very expensive: when the average weekly wage in the shipyards that built the Cunarder was £3, the cost of a 50-foot spool of Kodachrome (2 minutes' worth) was just over £1.

In 2010, the Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland restored the original film from its brittle and faded original stock. This restored film is an extract from a longer film, also featuring Mauretania.

Janet McBain

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Tales from the Shipyard', with piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne.

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Video Clips
Restored footage (1:45)
Tales from the Shipyard