I was Princess Anne once. That’s not a delusion I’ve had, I definitely was Princess Anne for a day, it was in the Sheffield Star and everything. I really wanted to be Princess Diana but the names had already been drawn out of a hat, so I had to be content with being the dowdy Princess Royal instead. Story of my life.
This brush with royalty came in 1982 for the wedding of Charles & Diana. It was a royal tea party to celebrate Charles and Diana’s wedding. Our class dressed up in our best party frocks and drank cola from teacups. I thought this would be the closest I’d get to royalty but I was wrong.
This weekend is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I’m telling you this because you might not have heard about it. The publicity has been very low key and there hasn’t been one ounce of jingoism. I mention this only because one of the highlights of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne must have been the opening of the new covered Kop at Hillsborough in 1986. Without dropping a massive clang like Sir Tom Jones, I was there (and every other child of school age in Sheffield, I think it was declared a national holiday).
My memories of the day are sketchy to say the least but recently read back through the commemorative programme from that day. The schedule went as follows;
12 Noon – Turnstiles open
1pm – Football display by the Young Owls. We have some very grainy photos of this ‘football’ display but from what they show it consisted of running around the edge of the pitch and sliding on their knees across the turf. It was basically a family wedding but without the music.
1.30pm – Legendary Radio Sheffield presenter Tony Capstick announced the obligatory brass band. I assume some producer from the South East had arranged it because us Yorkshire folk can’t have a celebration without a tuba and cornet.The grand opening of the Kop took place on the 12th of December so there were lots of carols for the brass band to play. There were even song sheets printed in the programme for us to sing along. Fortunately as a child of a good Church of England school I already knew the words. It’s part of the school’s entry requirement that a child must be able to sing Away in a Manager by heart before they’ll let you start in September.There were a few songs in the programme that don’t seem to befit the occasion, Hello Dolly and Hey Look Me Over. I’m assuming they were favourites of the regiment.
2.20pm Tony Capstick runs through the programme. We were a class of seven year olds who had now been standing in a freezing stand for nearly two and half hours, and the Queen still hadn’t turned up. I can’t remember exactly when this happened but I swear it was our class that started it, we began to chant ‘we want the Queen, we want the Queen.’ I think how sweet that was now, especially as in that exact stand I’ve sung much worse, at louder volumes with greater venom. Mainly about Neil Warnock.
2.30pm – A fanfare acknowledges the entrance of the Queen into the Directors Box followed by the National Anthem. She was finally there. I wonder if she just fancies, just once in a while, hearing Hello Dolly instead of God Save the Queen?
2.35pm – More singing from the Sheffield Girl’s Choir with a special song written for the occasion. I imagine it was Christmassy for the ceremony and probably didn’t include ‘die die piggy piggy die’ anywhere in the verses.
2.45pm – Her Majesty drives around the stadium. This was the part I remember the most. The Queen climbed into, what I assume was a black Rolls Royce, and drove around the outside the pitch. I remember thinking at the time this was incredibly lazy of her because it’s not that far around the Hillsborough ground. I imagine the groundsmen were none too pleased either. In fact it was the laziest introduction to the Hillsborough pitch I’ve ever seen with the exception of Wim Jonk.What also stood out for me, as her Maj drove around the ground, was that she was wearing red from the top of her head to the bottom of her royal soles. RED. I know it was the run up to Christmas but that it tantamount to bringing pork cocktail sausages to a Jewish Bris.
2.47pm – Bert McGee, then Chairman of The Owls invites the Queen to unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening of the Kop. Her Majesty then had the honour of meeting Howard Wilkinson and Martyn Hodge, manager and captain of the team.After all the glad handing and plaque unveiling, the Queen left.
2.53pm. For nearly three hours waiting on a cold December day we schoolchildren of Sheffield saw her Majesty for a grand total of twenty three minutes, and yet I still remember it.If it hadn’t been for the Diamond jubilee, I wouldn’t be reminising about this event and I wouldn’t have read the Chairman’s message to the fans in the commemorative programme. Bert McGee wrote.
‘From being very well established at the top of the First Division of the Football League, we came into troubled waters and traversed the Second and Third Divisions, almost down to the Fourth. We are again in our rightful place in Division One of the Football League, playing in one of the best stadiums in Europe..’
I raise my teacup of cola to you, to the future of Sheffield Wednesday and to her Majesty the Queen on her diamond Jubilee. May she dance and sing to Hello Dolly as often as she likes and may Sheffield Wednesday once again be in their rightful place.