“sending the hull down the well-greased blocks” — British 2-Pound Coin

Today, the British 2-Pound Coin remembers when royalty christened the Queen Mary in Clydebank, Scotland on September 26, 1934.

The Washington, D.C., Evening Star newspaper of September 26, 1934 included two different news items describing the ship and the christening event:


Queen Mary Christens Liner, Namesake, in Clydebank Rites

By the Associated Press. Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland. September 26.—Queen Mary today christened the giant new Cunard-White Star liner 534 the Queen Mary as the great ship started down the ways to the water.

The Queen Mary, which Great Britain believes will be the queen of the seas, slid down successfully in a perfect launching.

The choice of the name of a living queen for a christening was most unusual. Right up until the moment of the actual christening, no one had announced what the great ship’s name was to be and the suggestion Britannia ruled a favorite.

The launching followed a short speech by King George, who said:

“Now, with hope of better trade on both sides of the Atlantic, let us look forward to her playing a great part in the revival of international commerce.

“Samuel Cunard built his ships to carry mails between two English speaking countries. This one is built to carry the people of two lands, in great numbers, to and fro, so that they may learn to understand each other.”

A driving rain poured on the assembled multitude.

The Prince of Wales was present. So was Ambassador Robert W. Bing ham of the United States, Mrs. Bing ham and a multitude of other notables.

The peak of the highest tide of Autumn was awaited as the signal for Queen Mary to name the ship and press the button releasing the triggers and sending the hull down the well-greased blocks into the River Clyde and the mouth of the River Cart.

The completed vessel will cost an estimated $30,000,000. She was started as a project of the Cunard Co. as the first of two sister ships for the North Atlantic Service, but early this year the line merged with the White Star Line and the British government provided $15,000,000 for completion of the first vessel and $7,500,000 for the working capital of the merger company.


Britain’s Great Ship.

Today at Clydebank, Scotland, Great Britain launched, amid royal pomp and ceremony and with all the trappings of a momentous national event, the 73,000-ton Cunard-White Star liner known until now as 534. She was christened the Queen Mary by King George’s consort.

That the birth of this newest monarch of the seas is more than a routine maritime episode is evidenced by the fact that the poet laureate, John Masefield, himself a lover of ships, was impressed into service to compose an ode suitable to the occasion.

King George delivered an address at the launching ceremony. It is the first time on record that British sovereigns have participated in the christening of a merchant ship.

The last word in size and magnificence, the Queen Mary is a symbol of Britain’s determination to recapture the blue ribbon of the oceans.

Long held by her, it has slipped from her grasp intermittently during the present century, as the laurels were won successively by the Germans and the Italians.

John Bull hopes to retake and retain them with the huge ship that slid down the ways today, though in the 73,000-ton Normandie, now approaching completion in France, she already faces rivalry that threatens hoped-for British supremacy.

The British Treasury has lavishly subsidized the construction of this great ship that took the waters today. She represents a cost of approximately $25,000,000.

She is 1,018 feet long and one of her promenade decks is 750 feet Iong. It was necessary to widen the mouth of the River Cart, adjacent to the Clyde, to permit her to glide from the ways.

It is expected that her engines will generate 200,000 horsepower and give her a speed of thirty-one knots. She will accommodate a population of four thousand persons and be supplied with eleven decks. The height to the mast head will be two hundred and fifty feet.

As Americans contemplate in awe and admiration this mightiest achievement of British shipwrights they experience a tinge of regret that the United States seems definitely to have taken itself out of the competition for mercantile mastery of the seas, at least so far as big ships are concerned.

Our shipping authorities apparently have convinced themselves that it is more economical for Uncle Sam to use giant liners flying foreign flags than to attempt to match them with vessels of his own.

Yet the fact that Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy find it profitable to ply the Atlantic with immense and speedy boats gives food for thought and whets the eagerness of many Americans to see this country move in directions that someday will restore to the Stars and Stripes the glories that were theirs in the days of their incomparable clipper ships.


The British 2-Pound Coin shows with an image of the Queen Mary ship in the New York harbor, circa 1936.

British 2-Pound Coin