Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

One Man's Vision to Bring Ship Home

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

One Man's Vision to Bring Ship Home

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

RETIRED diplomat Paul Haggie lives next door to a distinguished naval neighbour that serves as a reminder of his North East past.

Mr Haggie, who grew up in Cramlington, Northumberland, now lives at Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent where one of the exhibits is HMS Cavalier, a ship which spent 12 years at the former Hawthorn Leslie shipyard in Hebburn.

South Tyneside Council spent pounds 300,000 in the hope of making the ship the focal attraction of a permanent national shipbuilding exhibition. But when a bid for lottery funding failed, HMS Cavalier went to Chatham, where Nelson's flagship HMS Victory was launched in 1765.

Now naval historian Mr Haggie is determined the Tyne will not lose another key ship.

This week he is in the North East, where his mother lives, for meetings over plans to bring the cruise liner Saga Ruby back to the river where she was built.

The Saga Ruby was the last cruise liner built on the Tyne and, indeed, in the UK. She was launched in 1972 as the Vistafjord by Swan Hunter for the Norwegian America Line. She later became the Cunard liner Caronia and is now operated by Saga Cruises, which bought the ship in 2003 and gave her a major refit in 2005.

Mr Haggie is calling on councils and other bodies in the North East to start planning to return the ship to the Tyne when she retires, around 2018.

His proposal is to use the liner as a floating hotel, alongside the Tyne's reputation as a cruise ship destination.

Mr Haggie said one location could be the north bank of the Tyne where there are plans for a major regeneration from Walker to North Tyneside.

A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: "The North Bank of the Tyne project is about reviving the fortunes of the River Tyne corridor and regenerating Wallsend so we are always interested to hear ideas people have. …

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