County pays its respects to a grand lady

THE COUNTRY has lost its favourite grandmother and the Royal Family a beloved leader. Across Suffolk people were joining the nation in paying their respects to Britain's oldest ever royal, the Queen Mother, by offering their prayers and tributes to the grand lady who died on Saturday, aged 101.

By Jo Macdonald

THE COUNTRY has lost its favourite grandmother and the Royal Family a beloved leader.

Across Suffolk people were joining the nation in paying their respects to Britain's oldest ever royal, the Queen Mother, by offering their prayers and tributes to the grand lady who died on Saturday, aged 101.

At church services across the country yesterday the Queen Mother was remembered in people's thoughts and prayers. Not least at the civic church of Ipswich, St Mary le Tower.

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Reverend Peter Townley, paid his tribute and told The Evening Star: "The Queen Mother was an astounding example of duty and service.

"Her deep and sincere Christian faith was an inspiration to all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Queen and the Royal Family at this time."

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The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Richard Lewis, paid his own respects.

He said: "The Queen Mother has lived through an amazing century of history in which she has played her part in a dedicated life of service to this country and the Commonwealth. May she rest in peace."

"Her majesty was a great countrywoman, a keen angler and an enthusiastic race horse owner, a passion which brought her frequently to Suffolk," he added.

"She had a real interest in rural issues and her approach, borne of wartime experience, was always very practical.

"She had a great personal warmth and lively sense of humour. She has been greatly loved by the people of this nation who will miss her very much."

Lord Belstead, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk since 1994, recalled the Queen Mother's 80th birthday celebrations when he found her in sparkling form at Clarence House.

"It was a very hot day and she asked us to go in to her garden where there were bottles and bottles of champagne.

"I think the loss which the country has suffered from her death is great. She meant so much to so many of us and she will be remembered for her years of service to this country."

The Queen Mother was patron of the Aldeburgh Festival and backed various causes in the region. She joined the fight to keep Holbrook Fire station open.

Her first official visit to the region was in 1955 when she visited the county show at Benacre Hall near Southwold.

She supported the Essex Show and the Suffolk Show which she visited three times. John Kerr, chairman of the Suffolk Show, said: "She was always interested in the people and the animals and

The Queen Mother was a first-rate ambassador for the Royal Family."

In Felixstowe people were remembering the Queen Mother as the head of her family, the person who kept the Royals bonded and saw them through troubles and crises.

Harry Pollitt, who visits Sandringham every year and has seen every member of the Royal family, said: "She was a very strong-willed person and she would have her way.

"She will be greatly missed and I do think she kept the Royals together. She kept them in line."

Pauline Witherall, who was watching the crazy golf on the seafront, said: "She's done a lot for the country. I think more of her than I do of the Queen.

"She mixed with the people more. She was like the head of the Royal family."

Daphne Bentley, who was also on Felixstowe seafront, echoed these sentiments.

"She will be missed," she said. "I think she held the Royal family together.

"She was a fantastic woman and just so special."

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover said: "The Queen Mother was the rock that held the Royal Family together during its crises over the last century.

"The whole nation owes a great debt of gratitude. She carried on with her royal duties until very recently and everyone will be pleased that her death was so peaceful."

Among the county's people mourning the Queen Mother's death is Toby Hayward, who annually took her a birthday card and gift.

The 25-year-old former Kesgrave High School student went on to join the armed forces but from the age of two he became an ardent Queen Mother fan.

His devotion to her began at that time when he asked his mother if he could visit the Queen Mother and subsequently presented her with some flowers at Clarence House. Since then he has never missed her birthday, ritually travelling to London if his work commitments allowed.

Mr Hayward who now lives and works abroad, said she touched everyone in some way and she will be sorely missed.

"I personally think that she was a wonderful stalwart who showed a face that will not be shown in future times.

"She had such an affinity with people across so many boundaries, it was fantastic and amazing. There has certainly not been anyone else like her in my lifetime."

The Queen Mother's death was announced shortly before 6pm on Saturday.

Tributes were immediately paid by family, friends and world leaders.

Prince Charles, who has flown back from Switzerland, where he was on holiday with his sons, led the tributes to his grandmother and said he was "completely devastated".

Prime minister Tony Blair referred to her as "part of the fabric of our nation". He said: "During her long and extraordinary life, her grace, her sense of duty and her remarkable zest for life made her loved and admired by people of all ages and backgrounds, revered within our borders and beyond."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said: "We are all the poorer because this gracious lady has been taken from us. Her unfailing dignity, devotion to duty and charm have been a precious part of our national life for as long as most of us can remember."

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