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COLUMN: Recollections of Queen Elizabeth II and the King to be

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COLUMN: The Postie Notes by Mark Gilbert

How glorious, how uplifting, and how comforting, have the pipes been since the passing of HM The Queen, Elizabeth II, Queen of Scots.


How proud, how fortunate, how sad, how timely, how geographically perfect, that Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II, should pass away at her beloved Balmoral – in Scotland, where she was always reportedly so comfortable.

This gave Scotland the opportunity to showcase just how quickly and how well it can adapt to rapidly changing times. And what a show we gave, with dignity and pride, we showed just why The Queen made a beeline north of the border whenever possible. The countryside of Royal Deeside looked glorious as the procession to Edinburgh began, and the pride that the local folk had of being part of The Queens world was evident.

During the period of public mourning, it was fascinating to hear ordinary folk recall their formal and sometimes very informal encounters with her. Some were joyous, others amusing, and some were sad, but in every recollection the person could remember every small detail, however long ago it was.

Queen Elizabeth II at Churches Boot and Shoe factory in 1985
Queen Elizabeth II at Churches Boot and Shoe factory in 1985

Born in Northampton, I can remember the excitement of getting a day off school when The Queen came to town in 1965. I was 10 at the time. She was driven around the town centre to a rapturous reception by locals and she visited Church's Boot and Shoe factory, not far from where I lived. She then visited nearby Althorp House, where Diana Spencer was brought up, Diana was 4 years old at the time. Who knew what was to come?

I was aware at an early age that I shared the same birthdate as Prince Charles. My mother was very proud of it and it was worn as a badge of honour in the family. So, years later, in 1988, in a misty country lane near Tarporley, in Cheshire, where Susan and I were running The Shady Oak pub, we met Prince Charles. He was attending the local Hunt Ball as Master, and as we stopped by a field gate to see the hunters on their horses, he came over and dismounted. I seized the moment and asked his “bodyguard” if I could speak to him and wish him a happy birthday, as it was the following week. He agreed, and I had a brief conversation with Charles, where we wished each other birthday greetings, and shook hands. He was most charming and when I went back to Susan, I said that I had just shaken hands with the future King!

It is now 34 years since I made that comment, and he is now King Charles III.

The day I joined Royal Mail in 1994 was April 21 – HM The Queen’s birthday – and I have been here ever since.

Just one other coincidence, and quite a shock, is that I, a council house boy from Northampton, would ever know The Poet Laureate sounds really strange, but I do, as Simon Armitage, The Poet Laureate comes from Marsden, the border town in West Yorkshire, where Susan and I settled after leaving the pub trade.

His father was Peter, who wrote plays for The Avalanche Dodgers, which were always very well attended and enjoyed at the Parochial Hall in Marsden. Simon has produced a poem during the passing of Her Majesty, entitled Floral Tribute.

After a life with QEII running alongside me, I am at one with the thoughts of Paddington Bear – Thank you ma’am, for everything.

Mark Gilbert works as a postman in Bettyhill.

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