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Memories of the Queen



To celebrate the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee earlier this year, Life and Work asked contributors for memories of a royal visit.

The Rev Dr Karen Katrina Campbell, minister at Edinburgh: Marchmont St Giles

“A visit from the Queen does not happen without intent and planning, like I have never witnessed.

“Nothing is left to chance.

“Someone once said to me, Her Majesty thinks the normal smell in most places is drying paint, and she might not be wrong. That is the level of detail involved.

“I was the Assistant in St Giles’ when there were Royal visits, usually for the Thistle Service in the Chapel.

“Before the event there would be a meeting about the security and on the day, the police dogs would bring their handlers in for an extensive search of the premises.

“The expectation is extensive and everyone has to be there in their seats well before the event. You knew she’d arrived from the sound of the crowds outside.

“On one memorable occasion when the Queen arrived, accompanied by the Queen Mother and Prince Philip, they processed to the Thistle Chapel, as the choir sang Parry’s I was glad from Psalm 122 and unusually included the vivat regina section which has been sung at every Coronation since 1902. I had heard recordings, but never heard it ‘live’. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. She had arrived!

“I can’t remember the jewels or the clothes, much to the disappointment of some of my friends. It was the music, but also the meaningful prayers and sermon, the sense of commitment and the faith of the monarch, as well as the delight which surrounded the day and the people.”

The Rev Drew Gebbie, minister at Hamilton South linked with Quarter

“I (almost) met the Queen.

“I remember, I was still in primary school in Hamilton when the Queen came to visit.

“The year was 1977, it was the Queen’s silver jubilee year, and I was 11 years old. The whole school, and every other school in Hamilton had been asked to line the route the Royal family were taking. So, out we all trooped, two by two, escorted by the teachers for the fifteen minute or so walk to the part of the pavement we had been assigned. We were all given a small plastic Union flag each to wave, and, of course, we had to practise.

“Everyone was so excited at the thought of seeing the Queen, we chatted amongst ourselves about what we might say if she actually spoke to any of us, and to tell you the truth, it must have been a complete nightmare for our teachers, who vainly tried to keep us all calm as hundreds of kids grew more and more impatient.

“Eventually we were given the news that she was on her way and the flag waving could begin. In the distance we could see her car coming, the cheers from the crowds along the streets was getting louder as she got closer and closer. We waved our wee flags for all we were worth……and she was gone! I think I saw her hand as the car drove past us, although that may have been wishful thinking.

“Ah well, I may not have met, or even seen the Queen, but at least I got an afternoon off school and a wee plastic flag.”

The Very Rev Dr Derek Browning, minister, Edinburgh: Morningside

“September 4 1964, I was two years old, dressed in a kilt, and hurried into a car by some elderly female relatives.

“We got to a special vantage point by the River Forth and joined the crowd. “It being Scotland, where the weather never fails to tantalise, there was a haar over the water, but the sunshine was behind it.

“It was a magical moment, and sure enough the mist began to lift.

“‘Look at the lady in blue, look at the lady in blue,’ I remember being told. Then the sun burned through the haar and the beauty of the two elegant towers with their draped cables emerging.

“It was quite something to be at the opening of the Forth Road Bridge fiftyeight years ago.

“It was also quite memorable being present on September 4 2017 when, as Moderator, I was privileged to bless the Queensferry Crossing, with the same lady in blue.

“The day before, as part of the Balmoral weekend, I had recounted the ‘lady in blue’ story during my sermon at Crathie Kirk.

“I drove down to be present at the Queensferry Crossing opening and blessing.

“Her Majesty travelled by helicopter. Imagine my surprise, and eternal delight, when she arrived in her car, stepped out, smiled broadly at me and said as we shook hands: ‘Well Moderator, will this do?’

"She was dressed head to toe in blue!”

The Rev David Barr, minister, Glenmuick Parish Church, Ballater

“One of my most cherished memories is when Her Majesty the Queen visited our village of Ballater. It was one year after the horrific floods that struck our village in 2015 during Storm Frank. The devastating damage to over 600 houses causing half the village to be out of their homes for many months.

“Her Majesty visited some of the businesses that had been affected then she came to Glenmuick Church to meet and speak with those who played a crucial role in responding to the crisis and included representation from Braemar Mountain Rescue, the police, the fire brigade, and many local volunteers including a motor cycle club and members of Glenmuick, St Nathalan’s and St Kentigern’s Churches, who provided hot food 24 hours a day for two weeks.

“Her Majesty showed great interest in what everyone had to say, as she knew many of the individuals affected by the flood personally by name as Ballater is her local village, when she stays in her Highland home at Balmoral. In fact during the immediate aftermath of the flood I was asked by Her Majesty to telephone Buckingham Palace to provide daily updates, the same daily update was also supplied to Birkhall, the home of His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay, whose home was also affected by the flood.

“That visit meant so much to our community, lifting our spirits.

“Her Majesty was then and continues to be a great inspiration to us all. It’s a day I will never forget.”

Melissa Grimley, Life and Work Administrator

“Before I became the Administrator for Life and Work, I worked at the Scottish Parliament.

“One member of staff from each office was given the opportunity to go to the Royal Garden Party if they could provide a good reason why they should be chosen.

“I explained that I would take my father who had grown up in Windsor, served in the Royal Navy and then worked for the BBC and filmed the Queen on a number of occasions. I also explained that he is a great admirer of the Queen and was about to turn 80.

“To my surprise and delight we were given the opportunity to go.

“On the day I got dressed up in a velvet dress and satin shawl and of course a hat, and my dad looked very smart in his top hat and tails. My dad and I enjoyed mingling and talking to servicemen and women and paramedics about why they had been honoured by the Queen and invited to the Garden Party. It was great to see the array of different outfits and hats – and of course kilts, and we caught a glimpse of Nicola Sturgeon in her matching dress and hat.

“Although we didn’t speak to Her Majesty, we saw her as she walked from the main tent to the Palace and at the door she turned and waved to us (and the others gathered) – so I waved back!”