Queen of Bermuda shipmates reunite
(Photo by Allan Davidson)
It was the 1960s, an era when dinner was served from silver platters and people listened to records from Johnny Mathis and Elvis.
It was also a time when hundreds of young men gathered to work on board the millionaires ship Queen of Bermuda.
The ships ex-crew from England and Bermuda will reunite on Wednesday at a reception and cocktail party at Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art. The event comes more than 45 years after they disembarked the legendary ship for the final time.
Bermudian Allen Soares, who joined the ship as a bellboy at age 15, is one of 44 former shipmates expected at the event.
Speaking to The Royal Gazette, he described his years on board as a time of high class. I still remember the elegance of it, he said.
If you saw [the movie] Titanic, you saw how they carried themselves, very prim and proper. The ship was all one class which they called first class. There were no distinctions and the ships were top of the line for that generation of time.
The Queen of Bermuda and the Ocean Monarch, both part of the Furness Bermuda Line, came to the Island up to 1966 and had scores of Bermudians working on board.
Mr Soares, who now runs a painting business, Best of Brushes, was hired right out of high school and worked his way up to becoming an assistant waiter for Captain Magnus Musson.
Everything on the Queen of Bermuda was silver service; instead of having a plate of food put in front of guests, they were served from large platters and serving dishes.
Though only a teenager at the time, Mr Soares said his positions on the ship taught him about independence and responsibility.
As a young boy you think you came up in the school of hard knocks but you learned as you went along — how to deal with people, talk with people.
You had to learn how to serve people in the right manner. You just had to learn as you went. It forces you to grow up.
He often worked ten to 12-hour days, starting at 7.30am, but said he would spend his time off reading, laying out in the sun on the crew deck or listening to music from the likes of Elvis.
Of note was the camaraderie between the crew members. It was like a family and that was a really good thing and I think that is one of the best things, he said.
The ship had 460 crew on board. You got to know quite a few of them. As bellboys we used to live six to a cabin so we had bunk beds but as you progressed up the ladder you go four to a cabin. There were 146 Bermudians working on the ship when I was on there.
New Zealand resident Ian Bray will fly in to attend the reunion next week. He and fiancee Ruth Gardner plan to marry while here.
As a testament to his ongoing friendship with ex-crew members, he said: All of the attendees have been invited and Allen [Soares] will be my best man.
Following in his grandmothers footsteps, Mr Bray joined the Queen of Bermuda in 1960 after completing three months at the Gravesend Sea Training School.
My joining created a unique situation as it brought three generations onto the ship — my grandmother was a stewardess aboard and my uncle was also aboard, he said.
I made many friends including Allen Soares and Tony Roberts who I have kept in touch with over the years.
He worked for three years to become a commis waiter and in his last year became a first class waiter. He worked at several hotels on the Island after leaving the ship and stayed in the hospitality industry for many years.
Former pageboy Tony Roberts will also attend the reunion event. He was 16 years old when he began working on the Queen of Bermuda, which he described as opportunity of a lifetime.
Having been brought up in a small industrial town in the Northern England, joining the Queen of Bermuda was the beginning of what was to become a life of travel and, in many ways an education.
I started off as a pageboy assigned to the office of [chief steward] Jim Cook and [staff chief steward] Ivor Atkinson. That first year was a fantastic experience. Both gentlemen gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons — not only on board ship but also in Bermuda and New York.
Working at sea from 7am to 9pm with only a couple of hours off in the afternoon is something a lot of young people of today would find hard to take.
He became an apprentice waiter to Captain Musson in his second year. He also had the opportunity to serve many important people travelling to Bermuda.
This will be the second reunion hes attended with friends from the ship.
One of the main reasons Im attending this year is that it also coincides with Ian Bray getting married on the Island.
Since I only spent two years on board the Queen of Bermuda, the group of people I know is somewhat small; however, I also hope to meet some of the Bermudians that we worked with.
Cost could be a barrier for ex-crew members, many who live all over the world, Mr Roberts said,
For those who attend it will be a chance to take another trip down memory lane.
Time is not on our side for its more than 45 years since the Queen of Bermuda ceased operations, and over 50 years since many of us worked on board, he said.
Ex-crew mates are encouraged to come out for the event and can reserve a spot by calling Mr Soares on 337-3923 or 232-3700.
Useful website: www.furnessbermudaline.com.