Barley's Heather recounts RMS Queen Mary's maiden voyage 85 years on
- Credit: Archant
To mark the 85th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Queen Mary, Barley care home resident has told of "the most inspiring trip of her life" at just 14 years old.
Schoolgirl Heather Beagley boarded the ship on May 27, 1936. Now aged 99, she told fellow residents and staff at Margaret House - and the Crow - of her experience.
She said: "My father had to book places on board months in advance as so many people yearned to be passengers.
"Permission had to be sought for me to be absent from school for a fortnight and to our relief my headmistress said 'lucky girl! It will be an education in itself!'
"Everyone in Bristol envied us and friends drove down to Southampton to wave us off.
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"Before setting foot on this prestigious ship, I was amazed at the sight of it towering above us as we approached all 81,000 tons.
"I sat with my parents in the magnificent dining-room, walls lined with beautiful wood and with its superb lighting.
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"In the centre of our table was always a bowl of red roses and the meals were varied and delicious.
"Most days I went to the cinema. Films were all the rage in the 1930s and there were five stars on board including Jack Buchanan, Olivia de Havilland and Frances Day. And I enjoyed reading from a selection of books in the library.
"In the evening there was dancing to the famous Henry Hall’s Dance Band in the big ballroom.
"We were introduced to Jack, aged 42. Although so much older than me he danced with me every night. How lucky I was! One night when I was almost asleep I heard one of my companions say 'How did that young girl find a gigolo when we can’t.'
"Next day I asked my mother what ‘gigolo’ meant. She replied ‘A polite gentleman who loves dancing!’
"After four days and a scare about an iceberg looming too close, we arrived in New York.
"Aeroplanes flew overhead, ships hooted and sprayed water, VIPs came out in boats to greet us and crowds lined the quays to welcome us."
Margaret House recreated an afternoon tea from the trip for Heather, complete with a case of champagne kindly provided by Cunard. Care home proprietor Thomas Kelly also presented Heather with beautiful bouquet of flowers for the occasion.