Our columnist Laura Lawrence recalls her brush with royalty as a child waiting in the Owls’ south stand for Her Majesty to officially open the covered Kop 36 years ago.
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. Damn you, Jayne Topliss.
This is about as far as I get to being a royalist. I have my reservations about the need for constitutional monarchy by that is a debate for another time and another place. What I will say is the Queen was part of one of my earliest football memories. In 1986, she came to Sheffield to open the covered Spion Kop at Hillsborough.
It seemed that every school child in Sheffield had been invited. At 12 noon the turnstiles opened. An hour later there was a football display by the Young Owls. My parents 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.
Legendary Radio Sheffield presenter Tony Capstick, then announced the obligatory brass band. 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 Manger 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.
We were a class of seven-year-olds who had now been standing in a freezing south 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 and with greater venom. Mainly about Neil Warnock.
By 2.30pm, a fanfare acknowledged the entrance of the Queen into the Directors’ Box followed by the National Anthem. She was finally there. A small dot below us. I wonder if she’d fancied, just occasionally, hearing a rendition of Hello Dolly instead of God Save the Queen?
At 2.45pm, Her Majesty drove around the pitch in a black Rolls-Royce. I remember thinking at the time that this was incredibly lazy of her. In fact, it was the laziest introduction to the Hillsborough pitch I’ve ever seen with the exception of Wim Jonk. I also imagine the groundsmen were none too pleased either.
What stood out for me, as the Queen 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 is tantamount treason to a Wednesdayite.
Finally, Bert McGee, then-chairman of the Owls invited the Queen to unveil a plaque to commemorate the opening of the Kop. Her Majesty met Howard Wilkinson and Martyn Hodge, manager and captain of the team respectively. After all the glad handing and plaque unveiling, the Queen left. That was it. For nearly three hours waiting on a cold December day, we schoolchildren of Sheffield saw Her Majesty for a grand total of 23 minutes, and yet I still clearly remember it to this day.
Whatever your thoughts are on the monarchy, there is no doubt that the pomp and ceremony make lasting memories — and I will always remember the day the Queen came to Hillsborough.
Follow Laura on Twitter @YICETOR