Flags at half mast for the ex-master of QE2

Former Master of the QE 2, Captain Bob Arnott of Fleetwood
Former Master of the QE 2, Captain Bob Arnott of Fleetwood

He rubbed shoulders with the Royal Family and A-list film stars but was just as happy chatting to trawlermen in Fleetwood.

Yesterday saw the funeral service in Fleetwood of Captain Bob Arnott, the former master of one of the best-known cruise liners in the world – Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2).

The majestic QE2

The majestic QE2

Captain Arnott, who died on August 27 at the age of 92, was at the helm of this iconic cruise ship from 1976 to 1985 when he retired.

Because of the prestige of the vessel, which for many years was the fastest merchant ship in the world with a top speed of 32.5 knots, Captain Arnott became something of a celebrity in his own right.

The Captain, who lived on Rossall Grange Lane, Fleetwood, came into contact with many famous people, such as glamour couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Bing Crosby, Joan Crawford and royalty.

In 1977 he was even the subject of top TV show This Is Your Life and also appeared on another hit TV show, Whicker’s World.

Cinema legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were among the clebrities Captain Arnott met on board

Cinema legends Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were among the clebrities Captain Arnott met on board

It wasn’t bad going for a former Fleetwood Grammar School boy.

But Captain Arnott never forgot the town he grew up in, coming back to live in the port and joining in the life of the local community

This week, many flags across the town were flying at half mast as a sign of respect.

Captain Arnott lived long enough to see the QE2’s retirement from the Cunard Line and he said after the liner’s withdrawal from service back in 2008: “It is the end of an era. I think she’s the finest liner ever built. I am very sad she is going. I have long association with the ship and I was the longest-serving captain.”

He was born in New South Wales, Australia, but his parents were homesick Down Under and soon returned to Bury while he was a baby.

He was educated at Bury High School and then Fleetwood Grammar School.

A keen and highly proficient sportsman in his younger days, he played rugby for Fleetwood and Fylde and cricket for Fleetwood.

In 1940 he joined Alfred Holt’s Blue Funnel Line and celebrated VE Day in Fremantle, Western Australia and VJ Day in Sydney New South Wales.

In 1947 he joined Cunard Line, married Joan the following year and gained his Master’s Certificate in 1950. He was in for a distinguished innings with the company.

Captain Arnott’s funeral took place at St Nicholas Church, Fleetwood, yesterday, prior to a ceremony at Carelton Crematorium.

He was pre-deceased by wife Joan and leaves children Roger, Jan, Gill and Katy, and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As a sad footnote, the fate of his beloved QE2 still hangs in the balance.

Built in Clydebank, Scotland, and launched and named on September 20, 1967 by HRH The Queen, she served as the flagship of the Cunard line from 1969 and finally retired from service in 2008.

She was transferred to Dubai where there were ambitious plans to turn her into a floating, 500-room luxury hotel.

But this came to nothing and many are saddened and concerned about her current condition.

There were calls in Scotland this year to bring the “neglected” ship back home to Glasgow, where her illustrious story began.