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One year ago Southampton said farewell QE2
It was as if she just disappeared into the night, merging with the darkness to fade away from sight and into Southampton’s past.
Exactly one year ago today the city said a bittersweet farewell to an old friend who had been a familiar and well loved favourite for 40 years.
Many thousands of people braved a chilly Tuesday evening in November to say a final goodbye as the Cunard liner, Queen Elizabeth 2, slipped her ropes and severed even these, last, tentative ties with her traditional, home port.
Uncertain future She was heading for Dubai where new owners boasted a glamorous career for the liner as an ultra-luxurious floating hotel and tourist attraction, but as yet these promises have to be fulfilled. Instead she lies forlorn and untouched and QE2 faces an uncertain future.
There were some, who knew and loved the liner, who would have preferred to see QE2 scrapped and then to remember her in all her glory. But, at the same time it was true she was going to a wealthy part of the world, rich in oil money, where the ship would be cared for and maintained.
Unfortunately the reality has turned out to be wide of the mark.
In marked contrast to Southampton, where local people would somehow feel re-assured every time they saw her elegant lines on the waterfront, QE2 is now buffeted by financial squalls of the economic recession.
Schemes, such as sending her to South Africa for next year’s football world cup, are announced and then seem to be abandoned, while plans to transform her decks into lavish accommodation have, despite the passing of 12 months, still to get off the ground.
One year ago, as she sailed away from Southampton the water around her huge hull was crowded with an armada of motor cruisers, leisure craft, dinghies, yachts, and even one or two canoes, which bobbed around like chicks following a mother hen.
Hundreds of lights twinkled on her decks, cabins and portholes glowed, while high up above the waves floodlights picked out QE2’s trademark funnel. Every vantage point along Southampton Water and the Solent was packed with people to wish her bon voyage.
Despite four decades of service, QE2, still every bit as regal as the day she first arrived in the docks, looked magnificent, a testament to the skills of British shipbuilders who had built a vessel far ahead of her time, as she made her way down Southampton Water.
At a point somewhere off Fawley, the lights of the armada of following craft, together with ship’s own well lit decks combined with the refinery’s flares and illuminations as the liner disappeared into the darkness and into the memories of all who had ever seen QE2.