The Denny Shipyard in Dumbarton built the TS Queen Mary for Williamson-Buchanan Steamers Ltd in 1933, at a cost of £62,000. She measured 252ft (76.3m) in length, with a beam of 35ft (10.6m), and weighed 1014 gross tonnes. She was powered by three direct drive steam turbines, capable of achieving 19 knots.
Licensed to carry 1500 passengers, the TS Queen Mary was the largest of the Clyde Steamers. Her first commercial outing left from Bridge Wharf, Glasgow on 20th May 1933. Built as an excursion steamer to service the many towns along the River Clyde, TS Queen Mary was always a popular ship renowned for her comfort and spaciousness.
Her name, however, was to provide the shipping world with an interesting dilemma. Originally christened with the permission of Queen Mary herself, a misunderstanding arose in 1934 when Cunard officials approached King George V requesting permission to name their new liner after 'the country's greatest Queen'. King George reputedly confirmed that his wife would be delighted, not realising that Cunard were actually referring to his Grandmother, Queen Victoria. The Cunard liner was duly named Queen Mary, and the Clyde Steamer was re-registered as Queen Mary II. The steamer was forced to maintain this title until 1976 when the Cunard liner, now in Long Beach California, was removed from the register.
The TS Queen Mary remained on the River Clyde during the war years operating in the upper reaches of the river as the Cloch-Dunoon boom was in operation. Painted in various shades of wartime grey her time was spent between service runs to Cowal shore and the transportation of troops to and from the many large liners that were active on the River Clyde, bringing in overseas servicemen. After the war Queen Mary's first 'normal' service resumed on 1st June 1946. In 1954 a mainmast was fitted to meet with new lighting regulations and three years later, in 1957, TS Queen Mary was converted to an oil burning vessel. This had a noticeable effect on her external appearance, her twin funnels being replaced with a single elliptical one.
Successive owners of the TS Queen Mary included the Caledonian Steam Packet Company (CSPC), where she became their flagship. In 1969 the CSPC was amalgamated into the Scottish Transport Group, eventually becoming Caledonian MacBrayne in 1973. As excursion cruising waned in popularity, and fuel costs continued to rise, TS Queen Mary was officially withdrawn from service in 1977. Her final sailing was as an evening showboat from Largs to Rothsey on 27th September 1978.
Sold to Glasgow District Council for £50,000 for a planned maritime museum that failed to materialise, the TS Queen Mary was laid up for two years in Glasgow facing an uncertain future. She was eventually purchased in 1981 by Euroyachts Ltd and was transferred to the King George V docks in London for fitting out. Whilst this work was being undertaken the TS Queen Mary was badly damaged in a fire, but once rebuilding commenced her owners took the opportunity to restore her back to her original twin funnel appearance. The Euroyacht venture proved unsuccessful and the TS Queen Mary was laid up for a second time.
In 1987 she was acquired by the Bass Group, to be converted into a floating Restaurant on the Thames. Purchased to replace a former Clyde Paddle Steamer, the 'Caledonia', that had been previously destroyed by fire, the TS Queen Mary arrived at her new berth on the Victoria Embankment, adjacent to Waterloo Bridge, in 1988. Today the TS Queen Mary remains as one of London's most unique landmarks, and provides a superb venue for conferences, weddings or just a memorable night out. In 1997 she underwent a £2.5m refurbishment and now finds herself, once again, the company's flagship.