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Naming the Queen Mary

July 19, 1987

Concerning the naming of the Queen Mary, it is unfortunate that the column (May 17) and letter (July 5) are both the stuff of folklore rather than solid history.

In Neil Potter's and Jack Frost's "The Mary: The Inevitable Ship" (London, George Harrop, 1961), the true story of the naming of the Queen Mary is set forth in detail. In brief, this is the account presented by these British writers:

Sir Percy Bates (not Gates, as the previous writers have misspelled the name) was chairman of Cunard-White Star Ltd., formed May 17, 1934, by the merger of Cunard Steam-Ship Co. and the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co., which used the trade name of White Star Line.

The hull of the big transatlantic liner was at John Brown's shipyard, and had the yard number of 534. Before a name was chosen, Queen Mary had consented to perform the naming ceremony, scheduled for Sept. 26, 1934.

Cunard ships traditionally bore names ending in -ia, while White Star ship names ended in -ic. the formation of the new company suggested to Sir Percy and his board of directors that a name was required which definitely marked a break with the past and the beginning of a new era.

A number of names was suggested; "the name Queen Mary was first written on the back of a menu card. This was provisionally chosen," write Potter and Frost.

Before the choice could be made final, it was necessary to change the name of a small tourist vessel that proudly bore the title Queen Mary. The owner agreed to the compromise of Queen Mary II. Once this problem had been solved, the final decision was taken by the directors of Cunard White Star, and Hull 534 was to be christened Queen Mary.

While the facts may be less glamorous than the legend, they reflect more favorably upon the acumen of Sir Percy Bates, who was an outstanding steamship executive.


Pismo Beach

Editor's Note: An error was made in the typed copy of a hand-written letter from Paul H. Logan, published July 5, regarding the Queen Mary naming. The sentence should have read "Had Sir Percy been direct and less obsequious and complaisant (king notwithstanding), he would not have given the king the opportunity to choose from the several possible meanings."

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