Coleraine woman’s treasured memories of Coronation visit

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THE Diamond Jubilee celebrations have brought back wonderful memories for one woman who played a role in Queen Elizabeth’s post-Coronation visit to Londonderry 60 years ago in 1953.

The Queen paid a visit to the city a matter of weeks after the Coronation as part of a world wide tour.

But, it was Coleraine resident, Pearly Taggart (nee Wilson) who was the envy of thousands of girls across the city as it was she who was chosen to present the new monarch with a bouquet of flowers at one of the city’s most picturesque spots, Brooke Park.

Pearly, who lives at Princess Gardens in Coleraine, told the Times: “In 1953 Londonderry Corporation wanted a representative of the shirt industry in the city to present a bouquet to Her Majesty.

“The difficulty was how to choose from thousands of girls without offending them all. I worked in the Star Factory on Foyle Road which was the only factory in Londonderry with a welfare officer and I was in that position.

“Mr Charlie Swann was the Managing Director of the factory and he chose me. I lived at Clooney Park West in the Waterside and a Corporation car came to my house along with a well known florist in the city at the time Mr McCorkell whose shop was in Shipquay Street, and they drove us up to Brooke Park. Mr McCorkell wouldn’t let the bouquet out of his sight the whole time.

“I also remember the garden party was about 2 or 3pm and just before the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived I was brought to the top of the steps at Gwynn’s Institute, then down the steps onto the lawn and I was told that the Queen would go around greeting people and then on her way out I was to step forward and present her with the flowers.

“Mr McCorkell stayed with me the whole time. Queen Elizabeth came around with the Mayor, Mr Samuel Orr and Sir Basil McFarland. I am small in stature, but I remember thinking that she was only the same size as me.”

“When I gave Her Majesty the bouquet she said ‘thank you for the beautiful flowers’, and gave me a lovely smile.”

However, the story does not quite end there.

Pearly continued: “About a week later I was on my holidays in London and onto TV there was footage of the Queen leaving Eglinton airport. Then I could clearly see that the flowers had been kept because someone carrying them onto the plane.”

STORY: Eamon Sweeney