“A QUEEN dies,” announced our front page 50 years ago this weekend.

On January 10, 1972, the Queen Elizabeth - the ship once known as the Pride of the Clyde – sank in Hong Kong harbour after a fire ripped through her hull in the early hours.

Was it an accident? Rumours abounded that it was deliberate, an insurance scam perhaps, but the truth was never uncovered, although an inquiry did find evidence of arson with flames erupting in nine places simultaneously.

Its former captain, Commodore Geoffrey Marr, certainly thought something sinister was afoot.

Glasgow Times: Our front page 50 years ago

Our sister newspaper The Glasgow Herald reported: “Commodore Geoffrey Marr, who was captain of the liner when she was a Cunarder said: ‘I just cannot understand it in any way unless it was malicious.

“’It seems the only way the fire could have spread.’”

READ MORE: Five facts about Glasgow shipbuilding legend Eric Yarrow

Luckily, although more than 200 people were aboard the ship when the fire broke out, all escaped although 14 were injured.

The fire penetrated five of the 11 decks and blew up a subsidiary diesel oil tank. A helicopter pilot was first to notice the flames and raise the alarm but by then it was too late.

“The mighty liner Queen Elizabeth, once the pride of Britain’s merchant fleet, keeled over and died outside Hong Kong Harbour today after blazing from stem to stern for 24 hours,” said our report.

Glasgow Times: Princess Elizabeth, now the Queen, on board the Queen Elizabeth during its sea trials in the Firth of Clyde, 1946

“With her two giant funnels just clearing the water, the once-proud superstructure charred and twisted, and smoke and flames still belching from her hull, the pensioned-off Queen of the Atlantic lay helpless on her side – just 83,000 tons of scrap metal.

“It was an inglorious end for the 33-year-old ex-Cunard liner – once the world’s biggest passenger ship.

“With a final shudder she turned over to starboard to rest on the sea bed.

“Hundreds of firefighters and harbour officials stood by helpless in launches as the former liner rolled over.”

The report explained that the Queen Elizabeth, launched from the former John Brown’s yard at Clydebank in 1938, started life in 1940 as a troopship and spent the Second World War ferrying more than one million troops across the Atlantic while chased by Nazi U-boats.

Glasgow Times: Overhead cranes surround the Queen Mary's sister ship. the Queen Elizabeth, as she takes shape at John Brown's yard in 1937. When completed, she was the largest liner the world had seen.

“She was being given a new lease of life in Hong Kong as a floating university when the fire swept her 1031ft hull yesterday,” it continued.

“Renamed Seawise University, the former Queen was bought by local shipping magnate CY Tung for about £1.25m 18 months ago after an American attempt to turn her into a tourist attraction flopped in Florida.

“Mr Tung lavished more than £4.6m on refurbishing the ship.

“He dreamed of turning the Queen into a cruise ship and floating university. But as the fast-spreading fire turned her into a blackened hulk, officials said the former Cunarder would never sail again.”

Mr Tung was said to be ‘grief-stricken’, we reported.

“Mr Tung flew out from London today on his way to Hong Kong to inspect the wreckage,” said our reporter.

“Fighting back the tears as a he boarded a jumbo flight from Heathrow Airport the shipping magnate said: ‘I feel so bad. It is the only historical ship left.

“We restored it to her former glory – it makes me cry.’”

He was not the only one – the loss of one of Glasgow’s greatest ships was felt keenly on Clydeside.

The Herald’s leader column the next day summed it up.

“Many will find it tragic that so distinguished a career should have ended so ignominiously,” said the opinion writer.

“No-one concerned with the building or sailing of the ship, none from the thousands of troops it carried across the Atlantic in war service or from the distinguished passenger lists of subsequent years would have wished her such a fate.”