Memories of Coronation and the Queen in Saltash

Friday 24th June 2022 7:00 am
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Elizabeth proceeding past the Coronation Chair ( )

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Although we have been celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne in February 1952, the actual Coronation was of course on June 2, 1953.

Working in a Saltash stationer’s shop of Dingle and Co then as a shop assistant, we were told we had the day off for the Coronation.

Another assistant, who was originally from London, Mrs Nellie Fowler, suggested we should go to London for the day to see the Coronation procession.

We caught the night train on June 1, travelling in the third class carriage, not a sleeper (too expensive for us), to Paddington, arriving at about 6.30am.

We then had a quick cup of tea, and bought a newspaper which announced that Sir Edmund Hillary had reached the top of Mount Everest!

We caught the tube to visit Mrs Fowler’s friends and were greeted with breakfast and a warm coal fire… even though it was June, it was cold and raining.

We watched the ceremony on television (we did not have TV at home in those days), then at about 1pm we left to go back into London, to Regent Street and through a first aid station, taking up a position to see the procession returning from Westminister Abbey.

It was raining and more like autumn than summer, and I was wearing a winter’s coat!

After an hour’s wait, the procession arrived and at last the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in the golden coach. The Queen was on our side, so I aimed my box camera… sadly I aimed too high and just got the decorations in Regent Street!

The film was black and white in 1953. It was indeed a thrill to see it all, including Queen Salote of Tonga, who waved and smiled from her open-topped carriage (and without an umbrella) in the rain. We had seen the Coronation procession and only waited an hour while thousands had been camping on the pavements all night.

When the procession had passed, we walked to Buckingham Palace and, when walking along the Mall, we were knee-deep in rubbish!

Packed in the crowds, we saw the Queen and Royal party on the balcony.

Decorated

After a meal we returned to Saltash on the night train. It was difficult to keep awake at work on the 3rd of June but it was an experience I will never forget.

In Saltash, the Coronation Day was also celebrated, starting in Alexandra Square at 8.50am with Saltash Scouts leading the civic procession, followed by Saltash Land Rangers (of the Girl Guide Movement), then the Mayor, Miss W M Fearnside; Town Clerk, Mr A Gordon Bellingham; and Mayor’s Chaplain, Reverend Canon W H Prior, followed by local organisations, marched to Kimberly Stadium, Saltash, through the town centre part of Fore Street, which was decorated and with a floral archway across the road, although heavy rain drenched everyone.

On arrival at the stadium, an interdenominational service was held, followed by various events, a concert by Plymouth Silver Band, sports, a cricket match, a carnival, open air dancing and Punch and Judy show. The rain had eased for these events.

In the evening, people in Elizabethan costume took part in a torchlight procession to end the celebrations.

Looking back, I remember the visits of the Queen to Saltash.

Her first visit to Cornwall was in October 1949 as Princess Elizabeth, when she arrived at the approach to Saltash ferry slipway.

As part of the contingent of the Scout and Guide Movement (I was in the Land Rangers), we welcomed her before she left to cross on the Saltash ferry in her car en route to Plymouth.

The next visit as Queen, and accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, she came to Liskeard in May 1956.

We were on parade in the rain. I was a Sea Ranger then as part of the Guide Movement and, as the Queen passed me, a photographer took a photo so I have a photo with the Queen!

The Queen came again in 1962, arriving at Saltash railway station, and was welcomed by Saltash Mayor and Mayoress Vernon and Margaret Seccombe. The Mayoress, Margaret, had been part of the group of Land Rangers on the occasion of the Saltash ferry crossing in 1949.

I was not present at the 1962 visit due to working.

It is interesting to remember that the Queen was a Guide, also a Sea Ranger, in her younger days.

The Queen has been a dedicated monarch and we all congratulate her on her years of service and devotion and friendly approach to all.

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