TS Queen Mary

Please note the views on this webpage are those of Russ McLean and NOT the official Friends of TS Queen Mary charity [FOTSQM]. Whilst Russ McLean was one of the original three founding trustees of FOTSQM and prepared the official constitution and application to become a charity, he had to retire on ill health grounds. The narrative below is intended to give insight into how the charity was formed and current progress with this project. Especially the elements concerning the return of TS Queen Mary to her home on the river Clyde in Scotland. This webpage is also intended to show that those of us who are crocked with disability can still help make a contribution. In other words, no matter what life throws at you, there is usually something good that can be done with what you have remaining.

TS Queen Mary Photo Phil English

Under Tow & Near Homeless: TS Queen Mary.

In 2010 Her Future Looked Bleak

Photo Courtesy of Phil English


Personal Narrative

Homecoming In May 2016 After 4 Years of Seriously Hard Work

Video presentation above, with thanks to Mr Jim Phanco – brilliant drone photography – and the foresight to take it. The crowds that lined the quayside that day were genuinely moving. Big burly men with tears in their eyes.

Way back in February 2011 Gordon Stewart from a renowned paddle steamer website suggested that a gentleman called Iain Sim and I should have a chat with each other about the fate of the TS Queen Mary. Gordon’s thinking was that as I had (the dubious) experience of owning a Denny Built ship and had already rescued one of these vessels from the oxyacetylene torch and wrecking crew, then I might be of help to Iain in using that knowledge to ensure the TS Queen Mary was not scrapped and instead saved for future generations. The Denny ship that I had been lucky enough to have custody of for a while was the former Isle of Wight ferry MV Southsea*.

In 1998, I made a promise to the Southsea Preservation Society that the MV Southsea would be saved from scrapping and they would have the grace to take over the project. That promise was kept. The ship lasted for several more years. It also gave a great deal in pleasure, knowledge, and education. It is a strange dint of fate that the MV Southsea has a direct impact upon the rescuing of TS Queen Mary. For without that experience, the understanding of how complex such a task can be would never have been learnt, and I have no doubt the TS Queen Mary enterprise would have failed. As of October 2015 we now know that 4 years of hard work and exquisitely detailed preparation by fellow trustees Iain Sim, Calum Bruce, and new trustees Aidan O’Donnell and Ronnie Keir [page 28] along with a huge amount of good will from the FOTSQM friends such as Jim McColl and patron Robbie Coltrane has resulted in the charity having the amazing opportunity to take safe custody of TS Queen Mary and restore her for future generations to visit and study.

MV Southsea 1

MV Southsea – Ironically Lessons Learnt From That Ship’s Fate Have Helped Save The TS Queen Mary

Shortly after Gordon Stewart suggested Iain Sim make contact in February 2011, Iain emailed, then telephoned and like kindred spirits we talked – waxing lyrical about the possibility of bringing the genuinely iconic TS Queen Mary back home to the Clyde for proper restoration and preservation.

TS Queen Mary Photo Rab O.

TS Queen Mary. In Earlier Days

Photo Courtesy of Rab

From the experience of MV Southsea lessons were indeed learnt. As is fairly well known, that ship was saved from the breakers and given several years extra life. But sadly not enough for the onward ownership by the Southsea Preservation Society to succeed. This was a distressing thing to see. No one who loves a ship wishes to see the ignominious end that sinks so much our our nation’s maritime heritage.

TS Queen Mary Photo Ben Mann

TS Queen Mary Leaving London. The Big Question: Will She Be Coming Home To Scotland?

Photo Courtesy of Ben Mann

So the learnt lessons from an old Isle of Wight ferry were applied to the TS Queen Mary and recommendations for Iain gained from the earlier MV Southsea endeavours were:-

1] Form a properly registered charity for the TS Queen Mary. 

2] Assemble the best group of maritime professionals possible to take the project forward on a technical level.

3] Locate charity trustees with sufficient maritime experience and qualifications to acquire and restore the ship, along with a charismatic, ship and engine loving patron to helm the fundraising dynamic required to secure the future of TS Queen Mary

4] Of critical importance, locate somewhere for the TS Queen Mary to berth. I can guarantee that it was the lack of suitable wharfage that ended the chances for MV Southsea for I was the one who answered the telephone in the Harbourmaster’s Office in Argyll when the Harbourmaster from Swansea was looking for a guy called McLean to help him find a way to have MV Southsea vacate one of his harbours. Sadly there were no suitable berths in Argyll to take the old girl, and I tried. I really did. But that is a whole other story.

5] Sort out a website and social media. In the modern age this is an incredibly important element in any project such as preserving the TS Queen Mary.

6] Engage in a dialogue with the then current private owner of TS Queen Mary (Mr Chowdhury) to let him know that there was a backup charity in place in case he encountered problems with his commercial enterprise for the ship.

TS Queen Mary Photo By Hugh Spicer

TS Queen Mary

Photo Courtesy of Hugh Spicer

Iain Sim is a qualified lawyer so already had a focus for detail and a keen mind to tackle projects like TS Queen Mary. He certainly applied that to the above list – and with great heart and enthusiasm for good measure. From a personal perspective I think Iain should receive a medal as a mark of respect for his efforts. He has worked tirelessly pro bono for five years to put the elements in place in order that a safety net for the ship.

There has been good news recently with an award to Iain Sim and the Friends of TS Queen Mary Charity…


FOTSQM Trustees Iain Sim & Ronnie Keir With The Great Scot Charity Award

Along with Sanjeev Kohli from Still Game helping lift the honour! 

In terms of 1 to 6 listed above – and much more besides. Iain has gone above and beyond with all efforts – along with sterling work from fellow trustees Calum Bryce, Mark Yeomans (& New FOTSQM Trustees)…

Between 2011 and 2016 there has been steady, solid and inexorable progress…

1] The registered charity was born after a wonderfully enjoyable 6 hour meet-up between Captain Calum Bryce, Iain Sim and myself at the RRS Discovery Museum in Dundee. After fine tuning the FOTSQM constitution and charity registration paperwork (the Scottish Charity Regulator is right next door to the Discovery Museum), the new Friends of TS Queen Mary was accepted and registered as a fully fledged charity by the regulator.

2] Iain and Calum have made a first rate job assembling a team for the charity and also surpassed expectations and managed to persuade Robbie Coltrane to come aboard as the patron. In addition there are a significant group of friends to the charity ready, willing and professionally able to tackle all logistic aspects required to lift the 2011-2015 owner’s Prohibition Notice through to mobilisation, towage, drydock, repairs, fundraising and eventual museum berth for TS Queen Mary in the medium term as a static exhibit.

3] The founding trustees at Friends of TS Queen Mary were Iain Sim, Calum Bryce and Russ McLean. Unfortunately due to worsening disability, Russ McLean had to retire as a trustee. Fortunately Mark Yeomans did the honours and took over Russ’ place. The trustees for FOTSQM have been added to over time, and the current list can be seen here.

4] Tireless work by Iain, Calum, Mark and the rest of the growing FOTSQM team has led to a permanent berth on the horizon: here. There is a lot of negotiation and work in process. After many discussions and negotiations, it is reasonable to say that there are sufficient berths and also drydock facilities in place as of October 2015 to secure the long term future of TS Queen Mary.

5] Russ managed a basic website, including the adoption the SOS/CQD style of word/acronym “FOTSQM” to help ensure folk could find the charity’s website. If you try and locate it via an ordinary “Queen Mary” Google search it soon becomes apparent there are hundreds of Queen Mary institutions – ranging from hospitals to universities and road names etc. “FOTSQM” is an odd word, but that is how the internet works in helping search engines become laser accurate. Enter the FOTSQM acronym into your web search and it will get you straight to the charity website. Fortunately Mark Yeomans was able to continue the work on the website and polish it to the current presentation click here well as adding social media accounts for Twitter: here and Facebook: here.

6] As to engaging in a dialogue with the private owner of TS Queen Mary. All I know is that many hours were spent on the telephone to Ranj, but ultimately to no avail. The result?

On 21st October 2015 Ownership of the TS Queen Mary was legally passed to charity: Friends of TS Queen Mary. The new custodians of this genuinely iconic Clydebuilt ship.

Press Coverage: Click Here

TS Queen Mary - Intended New Home at Riverside Museum

TS Queen Mary. Intended Berth at Riverside on the Clyde

Artists Impression Courtesy of Friend of TS Queen Mary

In conclusion, the foundations and collegiate effort to have TS Queen Mary safe and moving towards a FULL and PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE exhibit, owned in trust by a registered charity has now been achieved. She is now owned by the registered charity Friends of TS Queen Mary. The next stage is fairly technical requiring works to lift the Prohibition Notice, Load Line Exemption certification, and a whole host of issues for towage in Spring 2016 – after the winter weather – it is a very long tow half way around Britain back to the Clyde.

Then, in essence, the real work begins: to fundraise more; to start the process of drydock and renovation (already in hand) and a plethora of other issues.

Though one thing is now for sure: the TS Queen Mary is coming home to Scotland.


Dare to hope? The following video was taken when TS Queen Mary was moved from her River Thames berth to the Port of Tilbury. We now have to hope – dare to hope, that a similar tow will happen for the imminent journey of TS Queen Mary from Tilbury to the Clyde.

The video shows TS Queen Mary being towed from The Embankment in London to Tilbury.

A nervous process for all concerned – especially going through Tower Bridge. Two icons scrapping together would not be a good look! The tow from London to Tilbury took place in November 2009. It would not be until May 2016 until the ship would move again. But that she did. All the way from the south east, 700 nautical miles to the north west and back on the Rover Clyde.


Home At Last


In Drydock At Greenock Before Refit. Picture Courtesy of Mr Gordon Stewart

Not only has the TS Queen Mary arrived safely onto the River Clyde, but the funds were raised (heroically by Iain Sim) for a major drydock. Following this, she is back in Glasgow and alongside some of the finest historic ships in the world…


In 2012 We Could Only Dream of This Day – The TS Queen Mary Back In Glasgow

More news on this page soon. Please feel free to check back, or even get in touch: here.


Next Page – Click Here


Transcript of Registry for MV Southsea

Without this dry-run of MV Southsea back in 1998 and many lessons learnt from that earlier preservation effort, the subsequent TS Queen Mary charity would probably not have happened. Strange to think that an old ferry from the Isle of Wight could, in a small way, help bring about the preservation of a genuine icon. Unusual too, that both the TS Queen Mary and the MV Southsea are Denny built ships. A small note of appreciation to the long gone, but never forgotten MV Southsea