The last week has seen an outpouring of grief across the Pond as news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II rippled up and down Great Britain.
Although the reaction here in Richmond and Canada has been more tempered, the passing of Britain’s longest serving monarch, at the age of 96, still provoked sadness and rekindled memories of her reign among local ex-pats.
Several such Brits living at the Maple Residences in Steveston spoke this week with the Richmond News about their recollections of major Royal events, such as the Queen’s wedding in 1947 and her Coronation in 1953.
Michael Hargreaves — who was born in London, but moved to Canada to work for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1959 — remembers the Coronation well, but has stronger Royal memories of the Second World War.
“As a little kid, I remember realizing how they were getting the same bombs as we did,” said Hargreaves.
“I remember the kind of steadfast courage the Queen showed. The motto was ‘keep calm and carry on’ and I have that sign on my fridge still.”
Hargreaves said there was a sense that Queen Elizabeth was one of the family, however, he wasn’t surprised when the news broke of her death last week.
“It was very sad. But I was happy so many people have shown support for her and the Royals,” he added.
Watching the Queen's Coronation - at the movies
A fellow Maple Residences resident, Sheila Morris, who emigrated from England in 1969, recalls having to go to the movie theatre to watch the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, because she didn’t have a TV at home.
“I do remember kneeling in front of the radio, age five, and listening to the Queen’s wedding (in 1947),” said Morris, 80, who has a Coronation mug on her bookshelf.
“I lied to my mother that day. I told her the schools were closed. She went along with it. She didn’t argue.
“But I spent most of the day worrying how I would get an excuse note for school the next day.
“Then I found out in the evening that all the schools were closed anyway and I didn’t need to lie.”
She, too, expected Queen Elizabeth’s passing, but added she was glad that the Queen “died in peace. She was 96 and she served her country and the Commonwealth well.”
Another Maple resident, Alan Ball – who was born in Manchester and grew up in Sheffield – emigrated to Canada in 1969, age 25.
The 78-year-old recalled, as an eight-year-old, huddling around a 10-inch, black and white TV to watch the Queen’s Coronation.
“I remember asking my parents why it was snowing. Of course, it was the interference,” explained Ball.
Many Brits would have been hearing “God Save the King” being sung for the first time on the weekend.
But Ball remembers hearing it before that, when Queen Elizabeth’s father was on the throne.
“She wasn’t supposed to be an heir to the throne. But I thought she did a very good job. Seventy years and hardly a little blip,” added Ball, who has a declaration on his wall, addressed to him from Her Majesty, appointing him to the Canada Council.
As for Monday’s state funeral, set for around 3 a.m. Pacific Time, all three Maple residents will likely catch up with it when they wake in the morning.
Steveston ex-pat merchants in mourning
Just around the corner in Steveston, Best of British store owner Lenny Entwistle, who was born in Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, said it’s been a difficult time for her shop customers and those at her hair salon on Chatham Street.
“I went into my hair salon this morning and told everyone and there were tears all around,” said Entwistle, who said childhood memories were, in part, marked by the Queen.
“The Queen was part of everything; every school, every church, everything; everyone had a picture of the Queen.”
Of what may come, Entwistle added: “I think we will have a fine leader in King Charles. I think we can move on.”
Not far from Best of British, Englishman Iain Mackelworth was pondering the impact of the Queen’s passing on his upcoming trip back to England with friends.
At his Steveston Barbers hair salon, where Mackelworth’s phone was “ringing off the hook,” the barber said the Queen’s strength was to bring people together.
As Mackelworth put it, she had an “ability to change with the times and not get stuck in one situation.”
“It’s someone who’s always been in the media and someone who’s been with you your entire life. It’s just a bit of a weird empty thought,” said Mackelworth, who never did see the Queen in the flesh during his time in South London, before moving to Canada.
Now, Mackelworth may be embarking on a historic trip to London this month.
“We’re going to be in central London a few days before the funeral, I would imagine, and all my mates are all getting together over there,” he said.