Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting the Cunard Line for a Corporate Award from Liverpool John Moores University.
For over a century and a half, the iconic ships of Cunard have been defining sophisticated ocean travel.They have always been the most famous ocean liners in the world. Cunard has carried guests across the great oceans and to the far points of the globe in unparalleled style aboard the world famous Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.
And Liverpool is certainly a city that will forever be part of its history. Earlier this year, Cunard’s three Queens performed a river dance on the Mersey in salute to the city, where the company began 175 years ago.
This was the first time Cunard’s fleet gathered together in spectacular fashion in Liverpool, its spiritual home, as the company marked their anniversary. The event culminated with the three ships, the largest passenger ships ever to muster together on the River Mersey, lined up across the river just 130 metres apart as the Red Arrows performed a fly-past overhead to the delight of the hundreds of thousands of spectators.
The three ships sailed in close single file down the river to Liverpool's Pier Head with its iconic Three Graces: The Royal Liver Building, The Cunard Building and The Port of Liverpool Building. The Queen Mary 2 then slowed in the river opposite the Cunard Building – Cunard’s headquarters for nearly 50 years until 1967 and sounded her ship’s whistle to signify the time exactly 175 years earlier when Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, left the city’s Coburg Dock and inaugurated 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 for 175 years as Cunard’s ships have crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic every year since, in peace and war, without fail.
Britannia was Cunard’s first flagship but at just over one thousand tons and carrying just 115 passengers, she could fit inside the Britannia Restaurant of today’s 150,000 ton flagship Queen Mary 2, which accommodates 2,600 guests. But the little ship’s departure heralded the start of passenger shipping sailing from Liverpool.
During the celebrations the Cunard Line worked with the University’s library and special collections team to further celebrate their anniversary with an exhibition of Cunard collectibles entitled Life on the Ocean Wave. This provided both the public and LJMU students and staff access to a unique personal history of the ocean liners.
In the present day, Cunard is the only shipping company to operate a scheduled passenger service between Europe and North America. This can be attributed to its ability to operate successfully through challenging times, including world wars, financial austerity and advances in other forms of travel. Cunard's reputation for safety was one of the significant factors in the firm's early success. It also played a key role during the Second World War, as the Queens liners carried over two million servicemen and were credited by Churchill as helping to shorten the war by a year.
The Cunard Line has a unique history, a strong record of promoting trans-Atlantic partnerships and perhaps most importantly a strong and emotional attachment to the people of Liverpool and this maritime city itself.
Thus, it is with great pleasure that I present the Cunard Line with our highest organisational honour, the Liverpool John Moores University Corporate Award.