News from 1954 Death of Capt Irving

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Mark Baber

MAB Note: Unmentioned in these obituaries, and the reason for their being
presented here, is that Capt. Irving was commander of Majestic II for about
a year, beginning in late 1934. Note that "Tuesday," which is when The
Times says he died, was 28 December, while the The New York Times article,
with a 29 December dateline, says Irving died "today."

The Times, 30 December 1954


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, and
shortly 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 was
knighted 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 the
Canard 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.

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 minutes
to 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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