The Time of their Lives

Tales of stowaways, dining at the Captain’s table and the excitement of transatlantic travel – all can be experienced thanks to a special art installation on Friday (15 May).

Time Liners is a brand new piece of work set to transport people to the golden age of travel allowing them to experience the sights, sounds and smells of the glory days of the Cunard Line.

Taking place in Cunard Building’s atmospheric Arrivals Hall, the room will be transformed for LightNight.

Signalling the start of the One Magnificent City programme of events, the creative work will bring to life five real life stories of people who dedicated part of their life to the world-famous liner.  These are:

  •  Mavis Tyrell – a junior officer aboard RMS Corinthia and Queen Elizabeth, she was responsible for organising travel and taking bookings by radio telephone. She describes Cunard as her first love and talks about how desperately she wanted to work for the shipping line as it felt that it “belonged to Liverpool”.
  • Joan Maxwell – an office junior for the Company Secretary’s Department working in the Cunard Building who spent her time filming, sorting mail and collating agendas and minutes from meetings. In her story, Joan reflects on the glamour of the time and how the river was buzzing with ships.
  • Chris Brocklehurst – a member of the ‘heavy gang’ which would work their way through the ship cleaning and scrubbing passenger rooms, the bar, libraries and corridors. It was labour-intensive night work which finished at 6am. One of his highlights was sailing on the Queen Elizabeth from Southampton to New York when he worked in the Crew’s Mess.
  • Ernest Ashley – worked on the Corinthia, Carmania, Slyvani and the QE2, but says his favourite was the Queen Mary. He had a wide range of jobs including pot washer, boy waiter, heavy gang and pantry boy, And he was even a stowaway at one point.
  • Dr Ian Reid-Entwistle – the Medical Superintendent for Cunard for 30years. He was a doctor on board many of the ships as well as an occupational health therapist. Ian was the GP on board the QE2 and also designed the ship’s hospital.

All the memories will be brought to life using projections, audio recordings, sounds of departures and arrivals, tapestries and recreations of the Captain’s table, a cross section of the ship’s decks, a luggage room and a crew’s cabin.

A special preview of Time Liners is available for the media at 4pm on Thursday 14 May in the Cunard Building. As well as having a sneak peek of the installation, some of the contributors will be available for interview. 

Time Liners will be open to the public on Friday 15 May from 4pm to 10pm.

Commissioned by Culture Liverpool and funded through the Mayor’s Fund, the piece of work has been produced by arts organisation Make Space Create and is a free event.

Director of Make Space Create, Cathy Cross, said: “I love to tell stories visually. When you think of an organisation, a building, a liner, over 175 years it immediately opens up endless possibilities for stories, big and small, that are magical, historical and fascinating.

“I approached this project with the idea to have multiple stories contained within suitcases. A chance to open a piece of luggage and be immersed in the world of the person that may have used it.”

Elements of the installation will stay in the Hall as it becomes the Aquitania restaurant to mark the visit of the Three Cunard Queens (21-26 May).  Extracts from the interviews will be available on the One Magnificent City website and will eventually become part of the Cunard Archive Liverpool University.

Gavin Cross carried out the interviews.  He said: “It has been an extraordinary privilege to sit with and listen to the stories told by Chris, Joe, Mavis, Ian and Ernie.

“Each of these may have crossed paths on the decks of the great Cunard cruise liners, or may have walked past each other on the marble floors of the iconic Cunard building itself.

“They all see this gigantic company from a different angle which is fascinating. From working at a desk to sharing a cabin with ten men right through to serving the richest and the most glamorous people on the planet at that time or making sure that every gangway and alleyway was polished, buffed and cleaned.

“These shared stories are fascinating and I urge as many people as possible to head to the Cunard Building on the 15 May and immerse themselves in this amazing piece of Liverpool’s history.”

One Magnificent City is a seven week programme of events celebrating Liverpool’s internationally renowned maritime history and transatlantic links. It begins on Friday 15 May with LightNight and runs until the 5th July.

Throughout the seven weeks various activities will be held which mark the 175th anniversary of Cunard.

Assistant Mayor and Cabinet Member for culture, tourism and events, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “LightNight signals the start of the One Magnificent City programme, and Timeliners is the perfect piece of work to kick-off the seven weeks.

“It’s aimed at people of all ages and by combining technology and drama celebrating Liverpool and its strong relationship with Cunard.

“I look forward to hearing, seeing, smelling and experiencing the golden age of travel!”

For more information visit or follow @OMCLpool on Twitter and One Magnificent City Liverpool on Facebook.

Liverpool Waterfront