AUGUST 2012 ISSUE
The Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday 3 June on the Thames as part of the celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of HM The Queen’s reign was an incredible spectacle, with a large number of significant vessels in attendance. I went to the event and braved the weather, the crowds and the toilets to see ships, boats and vessels of all shapes and sizes parade along the Thames.
Most readers will have seen the event on television, with this coverage widely criticised in the national media for a number of reasons, one of which was failure to provide a meaningful commentary on the participants. It seems unfortunate that more was not made of the numerous craft on show, as many had interesting and unusual histories which would have been worth describing to a wider audience. The number of Dunkirk Little Ships, for example, was considerable, while many of the unusual passenger and working vessels were very noteworthy.
Away from the television coverage, on the banks of the Thames and around the capital as a whole, security was incredibly tight. I felt it was too strict and somewhat excluding, with nowhere around either London or Tower Bridge for members of the public to catch even a sight of the larger ships and vessels in the avenue of sail. More or less all of the paths and roads down to the river were blocked off, and private parties for invited guests only seemed to make the occasion not one for the majority, with the best viewing spots available only for a seemingly privileged few.
Finally, with all of the anniversaries taking place this year, one that should not be overlooked is the bicentenary of Henry Bell’s paddle-steamer Comet. Launched at Port Glasgow in 1812, she was the first commercial, seagoing steamship. Celebrations on the Clyde at Port Glasgow and Helensburgh may be limited by current austerity, but this remains a notable milestone.