May 4, 2023 9.00 am This story is over 10 months old

‘My memories of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 1953’

A wonderfully commical day for 10-year-old Mike

Mike Spencer, Brattleby, is one of a lucky generation to have memories of the coronation of Queen Elizabth II on June 2, 1953. Take a trip back in time as he recalls the historic occassion.

In his own words:

My memories of the Coronation are quite vivid, I was hit with a rolling pin, kicked by a horse and won five shillings in a fancy dress parade. All in all, quite a memorable day for a ten year old country lad!

In early 1953, the forthcoming Coronation caused great excitement, with all the villages organising special events. At Sturton by Stow, this included a village Funfair and Gala, bowling for a pig, a fancy dress parade and a dance in the village Hall in the evening.

My Uncle, Herbert, was persuaded by friends at the Plough Inn, to enter the fancy dress parade as ‘Old Mother Riley’ – quite a popular film character at the time.*

Not wanting to miss out on this momentous occasion, I asked him if I could join in as Old Mother Riley’s baby. After much discussion as to how a lanky ten year old lad would fit into a pram, he finally agreed.

We managed to obtain an old pram from the attic of two elderly ladies in the village, who appeared quite proud to inform us it was ‘pre-war’, which war they didn’t say, but the Crimean wouldn’t have surprised me!

They also provided us with suitable costumes. Herbert’s was a long dress and a shawl, which looked like the previous wearer could have been Florence Nightingale, while I received a girl’s dress from the same era and a bonnet that reeked of moth balls!

The parade was due to commence at 3pm outside the Old Chapel on Tillbridge Lane. By mid-morning, Herbert was beginning to suffer from ‘stage fright’ and now beginning to regret the whole idea. However, after a couple of pints in the ‘Plough’ at lunch time, his aforementioned enthusiasm and the possibility of local stardom returned.

At 2pm we set off, as I sat cross legged in the pram – wondering if being dressed as a girl might jeopardise my place in the school football team – and Herbert doing all the ‘Old Mother Riley’ antics, much to the delight of villager’s walking down Saxilby Road to the Gala.

By the time we arrived at the assembly point, prior to the parade through the village, the gala was in full swing, children with flags in one hand and ice-creams in the other, as the adults cheered at the appearance of each competitor.

By now, Herbert’s lunchtime drink was beginning to take full effect. From the nervous wreck he was in the morning, he turned into a cross between the real ‘Old Mother Riley’ and a hyper active ‘Mr Pastry’, leaping up and down and adlibbing to the crowd in true pantomime fashion, the louder the cheered the wilder his antics became, pointing to me sat in the pram and shouting to the crowd while holding his nose, “It’s the third time he’s done one today!”

As he beat me around the head with a fake rolling pin.

Other contestants were now arriving and beginning to draw attention and with the thought of the ten shilling first prize firmly in Herbert’s mind, he decided he needed to add a little drama to the event to ensure success.

He began running up and down passed the crowd, giving the pram a push, letting it and me, freewheel down the road, as he turned to the crowd pretending to be unaware what was happening. Once the children were screaming at the top of their voices, he would chase after the pram catching it, just in time.

All went well for the first few times, until the inevitable disaster!

After one enormous push, I found myself traveling down the road a breakneck speed, wondering just where this was all going to end.

I became aware I was approaching the back end of ‘Lady Godiva’s horse far too quickly. At the moment of impact the horse appeared to take a dim view of the whole situation and promptly lashed out with his hind legs.

Before I had chance to gather my senses, I found myself traveling at an even greater speed in the opposite direction towards the crowd, who were now clapping and cheering thinking this was all part of the act. Although I inevitably ended up in a heap on the road, the fact I was so wedged in the pram saved the day.

By public demand, we were declared the winners, Herbert jubilantly waved the brown 10 shilling note (50p) above his head on receiving it from Mrs Sanders of Gate Burton Hall.

I sincerely hope, on Saturday, the Coronation of King Charles III will provide as many lasting memories for the current generation as it did for those who remember the Coronation of our late and much loved Queen Elizabeth 2nd.

And it’s just possible, just one ten year old lad will have a day he’ll never forget too!

Come to think about it, I don’t think I ever did receive my five bob share of the winnings!

* Old Mother Riley was a very popular ‘washer woman’ character created by Arthur Lucan – real name, Arthur Towle, born in the Boston area in 1885 – his wife Kitty McShane playing the part of his daughter. They became a huge stage and screen act from the 1930’s right into the early 1950’s, making over 15 films.

Mike Spencer