For many years, an oil painting by 19th century artist T.M. Hemy was hanging on board the QE2: The Mauretania leaving Tyne 1907. Hemy was a North East artist who was important for the region of Tyne and Wear.
The oil painting shows one of the most famous ships to be built on Tyneside: The new Mauretania leaving the Tyne in 1907 to sail round the North of Scotland to Liverpool. The painting shows Turbinia sailing alongside Mauretania. Turbinia was the world’s first ship to be powered by steam turbines, hence the name. For the maritime historians it will be of interest that Turbinia was unable to sail on the day due to a mechanical problem. It is a fine example of Hemy using his artistic imagination to describe how the day on the Tyne could have unfolded.
The scene was described by Shipbuilder magazine’s ‘Mauretania special edition’ of November 1907:
‘The departure of the Mauretania from the Tyne presented a scene so animated and enthusiastic that it will not be readily forgotten by those who witnessed it. To the accompaniment of shrieks from the syrens of the numerous craft in the river and the roar of the “buzzers” of the shipyards and engine works, mingled with the cheers of tens of thousands of spectators who crowded every coigne of vantage on both sides of the river, the vessel left her berth at Wallsend on the afternoon of the 22nd October, with a distinguished company on board, and was towed without the slightest hitch to the open sea.
In 1909 the ship broke the world record for a trans-Atlantic crossing. She also played an important role in World War 1, when she was transformed using dazzle paint, a technique that used striped primary colour designs influenced by cubism to camouflage her from enemy ships.’
The painting is owned by Jaap Kroese, owner of Swan Hunter Ltd, and for many years was loaned to Cunard Line and displayed on board the QE2 where it was admired by many passengers. On October 8, 2008 on the occasion of the QE2’s final visit to Tyneside, it was returned to its owners by Captain Ian McNaught on behalf of Cunard Line. It now in turn has been loaned to the Tyne & Wear Museums and is on display at the Discovery Museum, alongside a painting of the Turbinia.
Above) Captain Ian McNaught of the QE2, Jaap Kroese, chairman of Swan Hunter (Tyneside) Ltd and Councillor Ged Bell, chair of the Tyne & Wear Museums Joint
The painting had to be carefully packed to avoid damage and was removed from the QE2 by crane.
Also on display is the restored vessel Turbinia which was transferred to the museum in 1994. Turbinia was the world’s first first steam turbine driven vessel. She was designed by Charles Parsons (1854 – 1931) who invented the steam turbine in 1884, Turbinia was built at the yard of Brown and Hood at Wallsend on the River Tyne; she was launched on 2nd August 1894 and was by far the fastest ship in the world at that time with a top speed of 34.5 knots (63.9 km/h) .The original turbine however has been removed and is on display at the Science Museum in London.
Together these three items are showing Tyneside’s proudest ship-building achievements.