It was with mixed feelings that I again saw the QE2, during its final voyage around the UK (your report, 19 September). The last time I saw it was at age 12, as I stood on the banks of the Clyde opposite the John Brown shipyard. For a young boy from Castlemilk admiring the steamers going doon the watter, the sight was awesome.
But at age 52, I see it differently. I did not know then that much of my future would be wrapped up with the workers who built such a magnificent ship. It is right that we should celebrate its beauty, a testament to the skills of those who worked in the yards, but we should also reflect on its other legacy, the deaths that are being and will continue to be caused by the way it was built.
The Formica which lined its staterooms had a backing of asbestos; the steam turbines were insulated with asbestos cloth, paste, sections and rope. Not only were joiners and insulators exposed to asbestos but everyone in their vicinity including electricians, welders, pipe fitters, engineers, French polishers and even spouses at home from dust brought back on workers' clothes.
It has been 40 years since the building of the QE2, about the time it takes for the most virulent asbestos disease, mesothelioma, to occur. It kills within months. I and my colleagues witness tragedy for each family week in, week out and that will continue for the next ten to 15 years.
All this could have been easily prevented if more attention had been paid to the workers than rushing a ship through for the glory of the yard and its commercial aims. John Brown & Co (Clydebank) Limited knew full well by the 1960's that asbestos was lethal, but did nothing to protect these workers.
The QE2 is a testament to the men who built her, but also a reminder of what can happen when lives are recklessly disregarded for commercial profit and prestige.
While the QE2 has been sailing, affected workers and their families have continually fought for justice from a company and insurers still trying to avoid their responsibility. As we now see her finally depart, we also need to recognise that for many a very different journey is just beginning.
A tough and proud people, they will tell us they do not want "tea and sympathy" after the celebrations are finished. What they need is the continued support of the rest of us in the struggle for health care, social support and justice through our civil courts. When the demand comes we must respond to it.