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Luxury liner lives again in RBYC exhibit

An exhibit showcasing a “glorious and romantic” era in Bermuda's maritime past has been officially unveiled to the general public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Royal Bermuda Yacht Club.

Among a host of dignitaries in attendance during yesterday's ceremony were Acting Premier Michael Dunkley, RBYC Commodore Jonathan Brewin, former Tourism Minister CV Jim Woolridge and Governor George Fergusson who was given the honour of cutting the ribbon to officially open the exhibit.

The centre piece of the exhibit is the brass steering wheel belonging to the former luxury liner, Queen of Bermuda, that served the Island for 23 years between 1933 and 1966.

The steering wheel was presented to the RBYC by late club member and Hamilton Princess Hotel General Manager Bodo von Alvensleben.

Also going on permanent display is an array of memorabilia from the Queen of Bermuda and her sister ship Ocean Monarch.

The memorabilia was acquired from RBYC members and former Queen of Bermuda employee, Allen Soares, who worked on the passenger liner for five years as a bellboy and waiter.

Pictures of the Queen of Bermuda and her sister ships Ocean Monarch and Monarch of Bermuda were donated to the club by former Furness Bermuda Line ships' officer, Allan Davidson.

One of the driving forces behind the exhibit's creation is RBYC archivist, Paul Doughty.

“This wouldn't happened without the vision of this man,” RBYC Commodore Mr Brewin told those gathered for the ceremony. “He's worked so hard with so many people to put this together, and we would like to thank him for that.”

Acting Premier Mr Dunkley said Bermuda's history is something that must be “treasured”.

“Our history always needs to be treasured, whether good, bad or indifferent and this is certainly wonderful history,” he added. “I commend everyone involved in making this happen and thy club for allowing space to display the treasures we have here.”

Mr Dunkley added: “The Queen of Bermuda was considered the ship for millionaires and the ship for newly weds and when it came to into Bermuda and left there were literally dozens of boats that would follow it and out on every voyage. Bermudians were excited to have a ship of this stature coming to Bermuda on a regular basis and thankfully they came back again.”

Mr Doughty came dressed for the big occasion, decked out in attire depicting the colours of the Queen of Bermuda's hull and iconic smoke stacks.

“Somebody said, ‘oh you're the Queen of Bermuda for Halloween' and I said ‘no, I'm the Monarch of Bermuda',” he joked.

The exhibit pays homage to the Queen of Bermuda and her sister ships that provided job opportunities for Bermudians from all walks of life and stimulated the local economy during the infamous Great Depression.

The ships were owned by the former Furness Bermuda Line.

“The more Bermudians you talk to the more you realise that, that company, the Furness Bermuda Line, left a 120-year legacy that is interwoven into our culture and our society and we should recognise that,” Mr Doughty said. “They had football teams that played in our league and rowing teams.”

Mr Doughty said creating the exhibit has been an “eye opening experience” and a “labour of love”.

“It's really been an eye opening experience for me because I think Bodo von Alvensleben knew exactly what he was doing by giving us the wheel in that it would draw out from all of us something about what made Bermuda so special and what made Bermuda such an important place for the wealthy to come and relax and enjoy themselves,” he said.

“It's been a lot of fun doing this. It's been a lot of fun and a labour of love and passion.”

Mr Soares recalled serving famed US actor, Carol Burnett, on board Queen of Bermuda whose service to Bermuda was interrupted for a decade after she was converted into an armed Merchant Cruiser for the Royal Navy in 1939.

“She came to Bermuda in 1963 on her honeymoon,” he recalled. “She flew to Bermuda and stayed at Elbow Beach (Hotel) and then she went back on the Queen of Bermuda and of course she sat at the Captain's table.

“When we got to New York that morning she came down for breakfast and as she was saying goodbye she gave me a hug and a kiss and everybody started to clap and were excited. I didn't know Carol Burnett so much back then, I was just a little nipper and she was a star. I thought they were all clapping for me but they were clapping for her.”

Also attending yesterday's ceremony was John Musson, son of late Queen of Bermuda captain Magnus Musson, who gave the ship's steering wheel to long time friend Mr Alvensleben.

“The wheel is a symbol of the great friendship between Bodo von Alvensleben and captain Musson,” he said. “They worked together as a great team in making tours really special in the Island.

“On retiring the Queen of Bermuda to the breakage yard my father immediately gave the wheel that was presented to him (by Furness Bermuda Line owners) to his great and dear friend Bodo von Alvensleben who has now passed it on down the line where it should be.”

Mr Musson was the last captain of the Queen of Bermuda which was retired in 1966 and scrapped.

Centre piece: Paul Doughty (left) and Governor George Fergusson cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of Queen of Bermuda Exhibit at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 29, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated October 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm)

Luxury liner lives again in RBYC exhibit

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