Royal Reflections from the RESP Archive

10 - Peers of the realm look on during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey

This weekend sees the culmination of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, and marks her 70th anniversary as monarch. This event provides us with an opportunity to explore some of the Royal Family related material that can be found in RESP archive recordings.

The RESP archive includes a number of recordings which contain memories of monarchs and royal celebrations.  The earliest relates to a recording made in 1975 with 100 year old Granny Blacklock.  Recorded by her grandson, Ian Blacklock, and subsequently donated to the RESP, this interview takes us back to Granny’s childhood, in the late 1870s and provides us with some of the earliest recollections we have in the archive. Although not yet available to listen to on the website, there is a published summary on the site and the recording and transcription will be uploaded soon.  As a young woman, Granny worked for a family who were based in Manchester for a while and she was taken along to the opening of the Manchester ship canal, in 1894.  Queen Victoria was there, and Granny could recall the monarch in her ‘wida’s weeds’ as she passed quite close by and waved to the crowd.  When asked by Ian if she’d waved back, she recalled, ‘Aye, Ah waived back, aye’.

We then jump to the green at West Barns, East Lothian, 1935.  Peter Aitchison, who was a small child in 1935, recalled a cedar being planted to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Mary and King George V.  In a moving, informative and often funny interview, Peter mentions this occasion and then adds quickly that he’s always keen to tell people that the tree ‘wisnae his fault’, a reference, perhaps, to the impressive, or possibly intrusive, size of the tree today!

Other interviewees recall the coronation celebrations in different parts of Dumfries and Galloway.  These include Tom Allan, who remembers the celebrations, including pipe bands and bonfires, in Lochmaben and Sheila Austin, who remembers the celebrations in the more remote farming parts of the region

My favourite recollection comes to us from Davie Graham, of Sanquhar, who recalls that only a few people in the town had a television in 1953 and so many, himself included, watched the coronation through a shop window!