Day of celebrations in Liverpool as Cunard’s QM2 marks 175th anniversary

Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 sounded her horn at 2.00pm today (4 July) to mark the exact moment 175 years ago when the line’s first ship, Britannia, left the port to inaugurate the first-ever scheduled Transatlantic service.

That first crossing changed the face of ocean travel, establishing the first permanent link between the Old World and the New – a link that has remained unbroken ever since.

Britannia was Cunard’s first flagship but at just 1,154 tons and carrying only 115 passengers, she could comfortably fit inside the Britannia Restaurant of today’s 150,000-ton Queen Mary 2, which accommodates 2,600 guests.

History was also made in the city today when 400 Cunard passengers embarked Queen Mary 2 bound for Halifax, Boston and New York. This was the first time in nearly 50 years that passengers have set out on a Transatlantic crossing from Liverpool since Cunard’s Franconia’s last crossing from the city in 1968.

The exact day of the company’s 175th anniversary was celebrated in style by Cunard with two concerts attended by passengers and local dignitaries. Held at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, Cunard’s story was told in words and music. Speakers from the worlds of politics, TV and beyond introducing musical interludes representing key periods in the line’s history, performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, The Liverpool Cathedral Choir, The band of the Welsh Guards and soloists Laura Wright, Jon Christos and Jenny Williams.

At the Pier Head other events included a food and wine festival and a classic car cavalcade with 175 vehicles. Champion flyboarder Jay St John donned a Cunard bell boy’s uniform to welcome the ship (above). The festivities will end with a firework display fired from a mid-river barge as Queen Mary 2 prepares to set sail.

Angus Struthers, Cunard Director said: “It’s just six weeks since the Three Queens Liverpool Salute made news around the world and the city has once again given Cunard the warmest of welcomes. The atmosphere in the city is still amazing and the support for Queen Mary 2 has been fantastic.”

The anniversary crossing from Liverpool to Halifax and Boston re-creates will be enlivened with talks by historians, ship designers and Cunard specialists.