Brian and Margaret Hemsley , the Pearly King and Queen of Harrow. Picture: Stephen Goodger W25396h6
Brian and Margaret Hemsley , the Pearly King and Queen of Harrow. Picture: Stephen Goodger W25396h6

Royal visit: This is how the Duchess of Gloucester spent her 60th birthday in Worthing

It was a wonderful day 16 years ago when the Duchess of Gloucester spent part of her 60th birthday in Worthing – and part of the celebration was a rendition of Happy Birthday on the mighty Worthing Wurlitzer.

By Elaine Hammond
Friday, 14th January 2022, 2:08 pm

The Duchess arrived at Worthing Railway Station by train and travelled down to the Assembly Hall on foot to be greeted by more than 100 war veterans. The visit on Tuesday, June 20, 2006, was organised by the London Taxi Benevolent Association, which annually drove veterans to Worthing for a day out, and among guests were the Pearly King and Queen of Harrow.

Major Tom Wye was Worthing mayor at the time and said: “I was delighted to welcome the Duchess to Worthing on this very special occasion and hope she enjoyed her fleeting visit. It’s not every day we get a chance to welcome royalty. Before being taken to meet the veterans, the Duchess was introduced to Dame Vera Lynn, the patron of the World War One Veterans’ Association, and 110-year-old veteran Henry Allingham.”

The London Taxi Benevolent Association presented the Duchess with a crystal taxi as a memento of the occasion and the guests sang Happy Birthday to her, led by the mighty Worthing Wurlitzer organ. The Duchess signed both the mayor and the London Taxi Benevolent Association’s visitors’ books before returning home to her own family birthday celebration.

Jerry Cooper, who was 82 and vice-president of the association at the time, said: “The most important thing is bringing all veterans out to meet other veterans, to get them all together. It’s important to get them out every year, and not just sitting in their armchair.”

After a silver-service lunch, those able to enjoyed a walk to the beach to take in the Worthing air. Edward Mortimer, a member of the Suez Veterans’ Association, said it was a really good. “The journey down here was very nice and there’s been a splendid turnout.”

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