Please read about the amazing life and legacy of Sir Robert Irving, Royal Naval Reserve, Decorated Naval Officer, Queen Mary Captain, Bonshaw resident. Sir Robert was a highly decorated RNR officer, held several trans-Atlantic speed records, Aide de camp to the King, served on many famous ships and gained worldwide acclaim by maneuvering the Queen without tugs, guided only by a rowboat and prayers to St Christopher.


As supplied by the Cunard Line, the following was captain of the Queen Mary Commodore Robert B. Irving, R.N.R., he assumed command 11-11-36. 

Brief story of the Queen Mary 


The Queen Mary’s story is rich with history, elegance and grandeur. From the time her construction began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland, she was destined to stand in a class all her own. Upon her Maiden Voyage in 1936 the Queen Mary was considered the grandest ship ever built and the elite of high society considered her the only civilized way to travel. From celebrities like Fred Astaire to dignitaries such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, she carried some of the world’s most renowned personalities and political leaders. 


 In 1939, at the start of the World War II, the Queen Mary was drafted into service and outfitted as a troopship. Deemed the Grey Ghost due to her new camouflaged grey exterior, she joined the Allied Forces and played a crucial role in their success. When the war ended, she was restored to her former glory and continued passenger service. In 1966, with the growing popularity of travel by plane, Cunard announced the Queen Mary for sale and closed bidding began. The winning bid was $3.45 million dollars and thus began the ship’s transition and new journey to her new home in Long Beach, California.



The New York Times, 30 December 1954

The Queen Mary




Captain Sir Robert Beaufin Irving, O.B.E., R.N.R. (retd.), formerly

Commodore of the Cunard White Star fleet, died in hospital at Carlisle on Tuesday. He was 77.  

The son of Colonel John Beaufin Irving, of Kirtlebridge, Dumfriesshire, he was born on July 16, 1877, and was educated at Fullands College, Taunton, Ashborne Grammar School, and the training ship H.M.S. Conway, which he joined in 1891. There he had as a fellow cadet the Poet Laureate, Mr. John Masefield, O.M. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a midshipman in 1895 and in 1904 he entered the service of the Cunard Company as fourth officer in the Veria. He served successively in the Caronia, Umbria, Lucania,Carpathia, Lusitania, Carmania, Ivernia, and Brescia, and in 1913 he was appointed chief officer in the Lusitania.

 On the outbreak of war in 1914 he volunteered for active service and distinguished himself in several naval engagements. At first he served in the light cruiser Yarmouth and later he took part in the Battle of Jutland,being mentioned in dispatches and promoted Commander, R.N.R. His services as naval transport officer on the Palestine coast gained him the O.B.E. Upon demobilization in 1919 he became staff captain in the Mauretania, andshortly afterwards he obtained his first command as captain of the Vennonia.Thereafter he was in command of the Samaria, Ascania, Laconia, Franconia,and Scythia, and in 1931 he was appointed to the command of the Aquitania.

In 1932 he became A.D.C., R.N.R., to King George V. He was freely “tipped” for the commandership of the Queen Mary before the liner was completed, but the post fell to the late Sir Edgar Britten and then to Captain R. V. Peel, whom he succeeded as captain of the Queen Mary in 1937 and as Commodore of the Cunard White Star fleet in 1938. He wasknighted in 1943 and in the following year he retired and went to live at his ancestral home, Bonshaw Tower, Kirtlebridge, a few miles from Gretna Green. The house was built in A.D. 900 and had for centuries been the home of the Irvings, of which clan he was the head. There he devoted himself to local affairs and to the work of various ex-service organizations. From 1946 to 1952 he was a justice of the peace for Dumfriesshire and in 1947 he was made a deputy lieutenant for the county. 

He married, in 1902, Florence, daughter of Joseph Brown, of Claughton,Cheshire, who survives him.  



The New York Times, 30 December 1954  

Sir Robert B. Irving Dead at 77; Ex-Commodore of Cunard Line

Special to The New York Times LONDON, Dec. 29—Sir Robert Beaufin Irving, a former commodore of theCanard White Star Line, died today in Carlisle, at the age of 77. 

Sir Robert, who in training was a fellow cadet of John Masefield, the poet, joined Cunard in 1904. During World War I he was mentioned in dispatches and promoted to commander for his part in the battle of Jutland, in which he served on the light cruiser Yarmouth.  

He was named marine aide de camp to King George V in 1932. Sir Robert took the permanent command of the liner Queen Mary in 1937, and was named Cunard’s commodore in 1938.

Knighted in 1943  

Sir Robert, who held the Order of the British Empire, was knighted in 1943. He studied at Fullands College and served on the training ship Conway.

 On Oct. 18, 1938, Sir Robert won renown in this port by docking the 81,235-ton liner Queen Mary without the usual aid of twelve powerful tugboats, Deprived of the tugs’ aid by a strike, he used his master’s skill, acquired originally under sail, plus good weather and tide conditions, and the agility of two helpers in a rowboat, to ease the giant vessel into her North River pier at Fiftieth Street.  

He said afterward that he owed the feat partly to fervent prayers to St. Christopher. The skipper was a holder of trans-Atlantic speed records. In August, 1938, he brought the Queen Mary westward in three days, 21 hours and 48 minutesto beat a record held by the French liner Normandie.

 He joined the Cunard Line as fourth officer of the Verica, and obtained his first command in 1919 on the Venonia. Later he commanded the Albania,Scythia, Franconia and Aquitania. He retired in 1942. Noted as a connoisseur of pipes he had a great collection of briars in his castle at Kirtlebridge,Dumfriesshire, Scotland, which dated from the twelfth century and was once the home of Robert the Bruce.

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