When Liverpool ruled the waves
By Paul Coslett
As the QE2 pays her final visit to the Mersey discover Cunard?s strong ties to Liverpool.
Nestling in the middle of the three graces, the Cunard Building is the most visible legacy of the ocean line's historical links with Liverpool.
The Cunard Building served as the company?s European headquarters during the golden age of transatlantic liners.
Cunard dominated the cross Atlantic passenger trade in the era of great liners and Liverpool with its crucial geographical position was the hub of the company?s operation.
The QE2 will be visiting the River Mersey as part of its farewell cruise on Friday, 3 October, 2008, the ship is expected to be on the river by midday.
Track the QE2's progress on the Mersey >
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The Cunard building, the last of the three graces to be built, was constructed between 1914 and 1917 in an Italian influenced style.
Liverpool's Cunard Building
As well as acting as the company?s administrative headquarters the building, with its waterfront location, was used as a passenger terminal and included a booking hall, luggage stowage and first class lounges.
The basement was used to house the luggage that would be transferred to the hold of the ships, symbolic of the company's business American eagles look down from each corner of the building, while on the river side of the building the opulent first class passenger lounge is fitted out in the luxurious style of the ocean liners.
The company consolidated its pre-eminent position in 1934 by merging with White Star, the owners of the Titanic.
Cunard's presence in Liverpool had an important impact on the local economy with many local businesses dedicated to servicing the large liners.
Up to the 1960s Cunard liners would berth mainly in Huskisson Dock, the arrival of a liner was the signal for the start of a frenzy of activity.
Painters, cleaner, plumbers and all varieties of workers would stream aboard the ship as soon as the last passenger had set foot on dry land.
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With thousands of sheets, towels and napkins needed for each voyage there was enough work to keep over 300 laundries operating in the city.
A major overhaul of a liner could take four weeks employing 2000 people to clean and paint the entire ship.
Until the introduction of oil as fuel in 1919 liners were powered by coal, the liner Mauretania needed 500 railway wagons brimming with coal that took 24 hours to load.
It wasn?t just on shore that Cunard had an impact, thousands of Merseysiders went to sea working on the liners, known as Cunard Yanks those who worked on the voyages to New York and Montreal became known as Cunard Yanks because of the fashions and customs they exported back to Liverpool in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
The end for Cunard in Liverpool came in the 1960s when, following the decline in the transatlantic trade due to competition from airlines, the company relocated to Southampton.
Even then Merseyside?s Cunard connection continued with many locals continuing to work for the company most notably Captain Robin Woodall who was in charge of the ship when it visited the Mersey for Cunard?s 150th anniversary in 1990.
It was the first time the QE2 had sailed up the Mersey and thousands lined the shoreline to see the ship arrive.
The world?s largest ocean liner RMS Queen Mary 2, as part of a British Isles cruise will visit Liverpool for the first time in 2009, the 170th anniversary of the founding of Cunard.