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Suffolk mourns Princess' death

PUBLISHED: 13:38 09 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

AS Suffolk joined the nation in mourning Princess Margaret today, leading figures in the county paid tribute to the Queen's sister.

Lord Belstead, the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, who is the Queen's representative in the county, said: "I am very, very, very sorry to hear the news.

AS Suffolk joined the nation in mourning Princess Margaret today, leading figures in the county paid tribute to the Queen's sister.

Lord Belstead, the Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, who is the Queen's representative in the county, said: "I am very, very, very sorry to hear the news.

"Princess Margaret was a visitor to Suffolk; in recent years to our agricultural show and to the NSPCC Suffolk branch when we had been a big dance to raise money.

"There will be many people who met her when she had come to Suffolk. I am sure they will join me to express our sorrow in hearing the news."

John Kerr, chairman of Suffolk Agricultural Association (the Suffolk Show) said: "On behalf of all the agricultural community of Suffolk, we're very sad. She was a great visitor to the Suffolk Show in 1983 and I have happy memories of that."

Mr Kerr told how the Princess had said during the visit that the Queen had a horse running in that afternoon's Derby and she asked if there was anywhere she could watch the race.

"John Hargreaves (whose first year it was as secretary of the show) got onto Matthew's of Ipswich and they brought up a TV," he said. Mr Kerr told how the monitor was set up in the marquee and attached to the caterers' power supply so that Princess Margaret could watch her sister's horse run. She used the Evening Star as a race card, he added.

Also extending her sympathies to the Royal family, Ipswich Mayor Maureen Carrington-Brown, said: "I am sad to hear of her sudden death. My thoughts are with her family. Of course we have know for some while that she has been unwell. Sadly she appears to have been somewhat unlucky in love."

Ipswich MP Chris Mole told the Star: "I express my condolences to the Royal family."

Sir Michael Lord, MP for Central Suffolk and Ipswich North and House of Commons Deputy Speaker, said: "It's a very sad day for the nation but most of all for her family, for her mother, her sister and her children.

"Her life was obviously touched by great sadness but also we mustn't forget all the good work she did over the years with her duties as a member of the royal family."

David Sheepshanks, chairman of Ipswich Town Football Club, added his sympathies to those paying their respects.

"I was very sad to hear of the death of Princess Margaret," he said. Flags were flown at half-mast at Portman Road for Town's match against Liverpool today as mark of respect, players wore black armbands and a minute's silence was observed.

Throughout her life, Princess Margaret made occasional, visits to Suffolk, which left many people excited and impressed by her intelligence.

The people she came to see often made special reference to her friendliness and her diverse knowledge of subjects from flowers to fighter planes.

Perhaps her most famous visit was in August 1984, when she came to Peggy Cole's famous garden in Charsfield.

Today the Suffolk author and broadcaster reflected on that visit and on her friendship with the Queens younger sister.

She said: "I've met her several times and she was always very pleasant. When she came to the house, my brother was very shy about what to wear and how to address her.

"She had two detectives with her and she came with Lady Penn. My two sons were in the Suffolk Constabulary at the time and they chatted with the detectives while she was in here with me.

"She came round the garden and I was surprised at the flowers she knew and even all the Latin names. We sat in the living room together – she had a smoke and a drink and we just chatted away.

"She had a glass of lemonade even though I had made tea and biscuits. That was all she was interested in - I've still got the fag end in a box which I keep upstairs!"

In May 1998, the princess was due to make what would have been her last visit to Suffolk. On February 6, 1998 it was reported that she would be opening the restored Manor House Mansion in Newmarket, however later that month, she suffered a stroke.

Three years earlier Margaret was guest of honour at the Suffolk Show, having previously attended the show in 1983.

In 1989, Margaret flew in to RAF Honington to meet personnel and families at the Suffolk Tornado base.

During her four-hour visit in which she saw a Tornado display, Princess Margaret was greeted by base commander Group Captain Bill Hedges.

Gp Capt Hedges said at the time: "Princess Margaret was very friendly and knowledgeable and asked about the aircraft and it's capability. She enjoyed her visit and we enjoyed it also."

During the 1970s, Princess Margaret made only one known visit to Ipswich – when she arrived by train. It was October 1976 and Princess Margaret was in town to open the Rola Celestion Ltd factory at Hadleigh Road.

Instead of arriving by helicopter, she caught the train from Liverpool Street before lunching at Hintlesham Hall and then touring the new factory.

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