• Paul Curtis

How a Boy's Dreams Came True

Writing is a lonely occupation but the research puts you in touch with some amazing people. For instance, on the maiden voyage of the QM2 I met and photographed for my latest book a guy called Stephen Payne.

In 1972, he was a 12-year-old boy watching the children’s Blue Peter BBC TV show showing film of the famous Cunard Queen Elizbeth liner on fire and sinking in Hong Kong Harbour. The commentator said it was the sad end of the great era of liners and nothing like her would be ever built again.

Upset at such a thought, the young ship lover fired off a letter to the BBC saying they were wrong and here were his designs for a new ship and one day he was going to build her. The TV show congratulated him on his design and sent him their Blue Peter cap but warned him not to be too disappointed if it never happened.

Young Stephen Payne was miffed he only got the standard Blue Peter cap when he thought his design efforts deserved the coveted Gold Blue Peter cap. Nevertheless, three decades on and Stephen is a fully qualified naval architect and busy designing for Cunard a bigger liner than the Queen Elizabeth. Remember, a liner is different from a cruise ship as it is able to cross the Atlantic in winter’s stormy seas and thus run scheduled Atlantic crossings.

In 2004, his new ship, the Queen Mary 2, the biggest liner in the world, was launched. The first people Stephen invited onboard was the Blue Peter film crew - just to show them how wrong they had been. Awestruck, the BBC relented and gave Stephen the long coveted Gold Blue Peter cap!…/high-tea…/9780750990554/

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