By Kenyon Stronski
Westwind Weekly News
While the day may have started off grey and dreary, the weather cleared and the sun shone brightly on Monday at Magrath’s cenotaph for their memorial of Queen Elizabeth II.
“To say that no one could get the day off, we were pretty impressed. We had a lot of people.” Said Tracie Smith, one of the organisers of the event.
After some deliberation, the Alberta provincial government decided not to make the day a provincial day of mourning for the Queen, following in the footsteps of provinces like Quebec and Ontario.
“We figure there must have been around 100 people, which, for a small town on a Monday which wasn’t officially a day off, it was very good.” Commented Rosemary Minors, the other half of the planning duo. “We have to give credit to the high school though because for the school division it was a professional development day and so Tracie went in and talked with the principals of High School and she did tell the staff if they wanted to go, they could go. That was great support.”
Peter Simon, a band and drama teacher at the Magrath High School attended and played O’Canada and God Save the Queen on trumpet – to which Smith and Minors both agreed was excellent to have.
“He played the trumpet, he played O’ Canada and God Save the Queen. He’s the band master at the High School. The school wasn’t in but he said he’d come and play, he said he couldn’t speak for the band because it was a P.D. day but he said he’d come and he did us proud.”
Citizens at the memorial were invited to say a few words or tell a story on when they had met the Queen – with Tom McElhinney saying in his speech, “It turns out to be a warm, positive and embracing experience, over in an instant but absolutely memorable.”
“Tom McElhinney was very eloquent and very moving,” said Smith. “And we had another lady (Norma Zobell) that spoke when she met the Queen in Harrogate, which is close to where I’m from in Yorkshire and she met the Queen and spoke to her. There was a band trip to the U.K. and she went as a chaperone.”
Minors continued, “The Queen came in on a train, they got off and it was Prince Phillip and her and they were wondering which way they were going to go but this band group was all wearing a windbreaker that had the maple leaf and ‘Canada’ on the back and they suggested to put them over the railings which they did and that caught the Queen’s attention so they came over and spoke to them. She shared that experience.”
Many flowers were laid, along with a red, white and blue wreath Smith had crafted herself. After the program at the Cenotaph, citizens had the opportunity to walk over to the Agricultural Heritage Centre where they enjoyed refreshments and could look at a display of memorabilia from the Queen’s reign.
“Lots of people brought bits and pieces and one lady brought a scrapbook she made when she was six or nine years old of the Queen’s coronation.” Said Smith. “It was very primitive but it was 70 years ago. There were newspapers and magazines that were all 70 years old, pictures, coins, mugs, but most of them were coronation things. We did have some Jubilee things too, we had lots of good things. We’ll be sending a signed book of condolences to England along with a picture that was drawn, and if anybody else has anything small like that picture or anything we’ll put them in and send them off.”
“We were donated bread from Roosters, the local store that donated five loaves of bread and we made cucumber sandwiches and we were left with maybe a half a loaf of bread after out of five loaves. We had 60 sausage rolls, cheese and onion and cheese and pineapple on sticks, British biscuits, we didn’t have many of anything left. A lot of people went through.”
Smith commented the entire experience was extremely good, and felt like not only did her and Minors do themselves and everyone proud – but the Queen as well.
“For around 11 days from her death I was just focused on that, and it was hard work I could not have done it on my own. We had a lot of support, and lot of encouragement from the town and the museum staff. My Aunt sent me pictures of her book from the coronation of the RCMP that was in the procession. It was definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Queen Elizabeth is one of the only Monarchs many living today have ever known, and both agreed that while there may be future Monarchs that are as well-loved as she was and is – there will never be another that will reign as long or be as iconic.
“She came to the throne at 25, and Charles will do around 10 or 20 years. The royal family does live a long time, they do get quite old.” Said Minors. “If you watch any of the footage from the U.K. I think people knew she was amazing and many people know there will never be another Monarch quite like her – she’s irreplaceable.”
“She vowed at 21 years of age to serve her Country and her people and she did that” Added Smith. “At Charles’ proclamation he did say that he intended to step into his Mom’s footsteps and rule the way she has ruled but I don’t know if he’s got long in him. There’ll never be another, she’ll always be the longest reigning English Monarch.”