SHE was the first of Cunard’s superliners and one of Southampton’s best-loved ships.

Queen Mary was ordered from John Brown’s Clydebank yard and became a pawn in the politics of the early 1930s. Her construction was delayed by 18 months as an offer of a government loan to complete her and build a sister ship was dependant on a merger between Cunard and White Star.

This deal was completed in 1934 and building work got under way again soon after.

A newspaper report at the time highlighted the difficulties encountered in the construction of the ship.

“The arrangements made to lay down the great vessel were of a scale never before required and great changes had to be made at the shipyard,” said the report.

“Her unusual length actually encroached on the normal working space, and in consequence a bridge had to be specially constructed under the immense bows to facilitate the running of trains and other traffic bearing materials for the ship.”

Excitement surrounded her launch on September 26, 1934. It was estimated 200,000 people had crammed into the area surrounding the shipyard.

“I am pleased to name this ship, Queen Mary. I wish success to her and all who sail in her,” announced King George V.

She left the Clyde on March 24, 1936, her departure watched by one million sightseers who thronged the river bank. She anchored in the deep part of the river where she underwent tests before returning to anchorage to be spectacularly floodlit for the following two nights.

In the early hours of March 26, she set sail for Southampton to arrive off the Isle of Wight the next day.

A similar number of spectators gathered to welcome the liner to her new home port for the first time.

Her maiden voyage was from Southampton on May 27, 1936, and despite some initial problems, the liner won the Blue Riband in August the same year.

She served as a troopship during the Second World War, relying on her speed to steer clear of U-boats.

Her only wartime scars came from a collision with the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Curacao in October, 1942, and resulted in the loss of more than 300 lives.

The cruiser had been sent out to escort QM into Scottish waters when she was cut in two, resulting in the death of 338 of the crew.

Shortly after the war, Cunard’s plans to use two large, fast liners –QM and Queen Elizabeth – to operate a weekly service to New York, in place of the three needed before the conflict, came into its own.

It was one of the most harmonious partnerships the maritime world had ever seen, with each of the Queens carrying more than 2,000 passengers at almost all times.

Her time in service saw the glamorous heyday of cruising, with her passenger list often boasting well known names from Hollywood as well as sporting heroes and royalty.

Once jet aircraft began flying the route high above the Atlantic, the fate of the ships was doomed.

QM was sold off to Long Beach where she became a tourist attraction, floating hotel and conference centre.

Her delivery voyage was on October 31, 1967, and took place from Southampton to California – marketed and sold as a cruise. This had the added attraction of a trip through the Strait of Magellan into the Pacific, as the liner was too big to go through the Panama Canal.

Many of those who made the final voyage were past cruisers on the QM and the ship’s last master, Captain John Treasure Jones, retired after the handing over.

Earlier in the year, news emerged that her hull had become severely rusted and that parts of her could be prone to flooding. It’s estimated repairs could total more than £200m.

l More on Queen Mary in Monday’s Daily Echo to mark the 50th anniversary of the liner leaving Southampton for the last time on October 31, 1967.