Woman at Sea – Aboard the Cunard Queens

Cunard Queens Credit-Cunard Lines 3queens-3

Women can be married to their jobs rather than to a partner. Such appears to be the career life story of Lorna S.

Lorna was employed by Cunard White Star Limited, and later The Cunard Steam Ship Company Ltd. Her job title was Lady Assistant Purser and she served, sometimes for eight months of each year, on the ships at sea.

This was a unique experience in the late 1940s and early 1950s and Lorna S had a senior role in a professional capacity aboard the ships she served on. The Cunard Queens, especially the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Queen Elizabeth and the RMS Queen Mary – the largest ships in the world at the time, were ships that were like palaces on the water. As part of her trans-Atlantic journeys Lorna S was part of a crew that ensured clientele from all backgrounds had an experience of ‘plain sailing’.

A Lady Assistant Purser, working for the Cunard line, would be responsible for the smooth operation of all matters concerning the passengers on board. This included completing passenger lists for immigration offices, organising cabin changes, locating lost luggage, any usual and unusual problem aboard, and dealing with unexpected emergencies like deaths at sea.

Routine parts of the Lady Assistant Purser’s role would involve organising dances, games, being a hostess at the ship’s cocktail parties and managing the arrangements for seating arrangements in the dining room – especially meals at the Captain’s Table.

With so much of each of her years spent at sea Lorna S chose her career before a spouse and children on land. The crew were her family for around eight months of every year: the lists of her various journeys across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York shows that she regularly travelled with the same crew members. Their journeys were most frequently between New York and Southampton but they also navigated from New York to Havana, Cuba on another luxurious ship, the RMS Caronia (1947 – 1967) – also known as ‘The Green Goddess’.

RMS Caronia (Cunard’s second Caronia) was launched on the 30th October 1947 by HRH Princess Elizabeth. This was Princess Elizabeth’s last public engagement before she married Prince Phillip and later became Queen Elizabeth II on 6th February 1952; this was all during the period Lorna S was working aboard the Cunard Queens, with the majority of her time spent aboard RMS Queen Elizabeth (1940 – 1972).

© Marjorie H Morgan 2016

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