I was there, well I wasn’t really I was taking part in a pageant in Bristol. As part of the chosen few, we oarsmen rowed the Royal Barge carrying Queen Elizabeth I from the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth along the River Avon to Bristol, passing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge and into Bristol Docks. A distance of some fifteen miles.
Even there we could not be parted from our 20 long oars! Oh no, at the order “toss your oars” our oars were tossed upright in proper naval fashion (as opposed to ‘Bristol fashion’. Still with oars upright we disembarked to the dockside where we shouldered our ruddy great twenty foot oar and proceeded to lead the parade accompanying Her Majesty in her carriage along the main parade to the Colston Hall where the Banquet was to take place. The very name Colston is enough these days to bring out the Woke Brigade out in hives. It would even get you a ban on Facebook. They have even renamed it The Bristol Beacon. They even drowned the statue of Edward Colston. Don’t get me started!
Anyway the parade ended at Colston Hall, I can’t for the life of me remember where we parked our oars. No doubt the organisers collected them. I failed to also mention that we were all in appropriate dress with us like Francis Drake’s sailors in tights (so wrinkled that Nora Batty wouldn’t have worn them but she hadn’t rowed fifteen miles and then marched from the docks carrying a twenty foot oar). Our instructions for taking part in the banquet were to forget any table manners we had been taught as young gentlemen but to dig in and fill your boots, when you’ve gnawed the meat of any bones chuck the bone on the floor. Eat drink and be merry!
Do you know I can’t remember any more of Coronation Day 1953. I can’t even remember where I woke up! In my long life since then, I’ve had that happen a few times.
“Dress of the day, sea boots and oilskins”.