From Our Files, February 11 2022

The front page of the Campbeltown Courier of February 14 1952 was completely given over to the death of King George VI and the proclamation of the new monarch.
The front page of the Campbeltown Courier of February 14 1952 was completely given over to the death of King George VI and the proclamation of the new monarch.

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The King is dead, long live the Queen

A special edition of From Our Files this week recalls how 70 years ago Campbeltown mourned George VI and proclaimed Elizabeth as Queen
  • King George VI died in his sleep on February 6 1952 and his eldest daughter Elizabeth immediately ascended to the throne
  • She has reigned now for 70 years and 2022 will be full of celebrations to mark her platinum jubilee
  • When George VI died, the nation had seen five monarchs in the first half of the 20th century, including the Duke of Windsor, who abdicated in 1936, so people were used to the pomp and ceremony
  • Today, only the oldest members of the community can remember these events
  • The Queen’s coronation did not take place until June 2 1953
The front page of the Campbeltown Courier of February 14 1952 was completely given over to the death of King George VI and the proclamation of the new monarch.
The front page of the Campbeltown Courier of February 14 1952 was completely given over to the death of King George VI and the proclamation of the new monarch.

SEVENTY YEARS AGO
Thursday February 14, 1952

Empire mourns the loss of a beloved king

Traditional proclamation of Elizabeth II

At the weekend, when the Nation and Empire mourned the loss of the beloved king, Elizabeth, his elder daughter, was proclaimed Queen.

This mediaeval pageantry in the capital cities of Britain and the Empire followed The Queen’s accession declaration at Saint James’s Palace, London.

In the Royal Burghs and at other places, including ships and stations of the Royal Navy, Queen Elizabeth II was proclaimed ‘by the grace of God, Queen of this Realm and of her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith’.

A photograph of the Queen which appeared in the Courier on February 14 1952. It was taken, when, as Princess Elizabeth, she arrived at the French Embassy in London for a state banquet given by the French President and Madame Vincent Auriol.
A photograph of the Queen which appeared in the Courier on February 14 1952. It was taken, when, as Princess Elizabeth, she arrived at the French Embassy in London for a state banquet given by the French President and Madame Vincent Auriol.

At Campbeltown, the proclamation ceremony took place at noon on Saturday.

It was a cold, bleak day and even from a blue sky, decked with drifting white clouds, there was hardly a glint of winter sunshine.

The fishing boats lay huddled together in the harbour, the gulls wheeled and the crowd gathered in a wide semi-circle at the head of the Old Quay between the Christian Institute and the hotel.

A specially-constructed wooden dias had been erected in front of the Old Campbeltown Cross, placed in a new site since the proclamation of King George VI was read.

Then, the old runic cross, which is said to have been brought from Iona, was in Main Street near the Town Hall.

The new site, whatever else might commend it, certainly provided an opportunity for a fitting civic procession before and after the traditional reading.

Members of the Town Council, magistrates, councillors with officials and ex-provosts, the sheriff, honourable sheriff substitutes, the captain and the commander of the Royal Naval Air Station and the commanding officers of the two Territorial Army units, preceded by a guard of honour from the Royal Naval Station Machrihanish, HMS Landrail, took part in the procession, led by Provost Robert Wallace Greenlees MBE wearing his chain of office; Sheriff J Aitken Smith in wig and gown and the Town Clerk Mr A I B Stewart.

Proclamation party at Campbeltown Cross: Provost RW Greenlees MBE, proclaims Queen Elizabeth's accession at Campbeltown Cross. Baille MG McCallum and Sheriff J Aikman Smith are on his right and Baille A Keith and the Rev John RH Cormack BD, on his left. The Town Clerk (Mr AIB Stewart) is behind the Provost.
Proclamation party at Campbeltown Cross: Provost RW Greenlees MBE, proclaims Queen Elizabeth’s accession at Campbeltown Cross. Baille MG McCallum and Sheriff J Aikman Smith are on his right and Baille A Keith and the Rev John RH Cormack BD, on his left. The Town Clerk, Mr A I B Stewart, is behind the Provost.

The naval guard marched smartly with bayonets fixed.

Overcoats were the order of the day.

A contingent of Campbeltown police, under Inspector Robert J MacKay, escorted the procession.

The naval detachment of petty officer and 24 ratings and two buglers wheeled to the right at the foot of Main Street and took up a position facing the cross, with their backs to the assembly of townspeople numbering between 700 and 800.

The proclamation was read in firm tones over the amplifying system clearly and distinctly.

Every window within sight of the cross and was in proximity to the Old Quay seemed to be occupied.

The proclamation of accession of Elizabeth II which was printed in the Courier at the time.
The proclamation of accession of Elizabeth II which was printed in the Courier at the time.

Mark of respect by bench and bar

As a mark of loyalty and sympathy, the bench of Campbeltown Sheriff Court on Friday, when the court opened for its customary weekly sitting, was draped in black crêpe cloth.

Sheriff J Aikman Smith took his place on the bench accompanied by Provost R Wallace Greenlees, Honorary Sheriffs substitute John Smith, Charles Mactaggart and Balfour Downie.

Sheriff Smith said: ‘It is fitting that they, whose business lies in this court, should meet to pay tribute to our late King. In doing so, we are offering no mere conventional respect to a great public figure who has passed from us.

‘We did not think of George VI as a monarch living in high places, remote from the lives of the ordinary men and women of this realm.

‘Such was his life and character that his passing came as personal grief to everyone of his loyal subjects. We think today of a man who served us all with the highest and most self-sacrificing sense of duty and probably beyond the limits of his strength – a man of complete integrity and of great personal courage and endurance.

‘His life exemplified the virtues on which, as we all know, the welfare of our nation depends. What his example has meant for all of us we can only dimly comprehend.

‘Our respectful and affectionate sympathy in these days is constantly with our Royal Family.

‘To a new queen, so young, and yet so well equipped for the high duty to which she has been called, we pledge our loyal service in all the days to come.’

King George’s Love for Argyll

By Mr J G Mathieson, County Convener

My most memorable experience in a public life, extending to more than 30 years, was when I had the honour and privilege of a private conversation with his late Majesty King George VI.

The occasion was when the Conveners of Counties and the Provosts of Burghs in the West of Scotland were presented to their Majesties in the Town Hall, Greenock, on July 22 1947.

Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, Princess Margaret and the Duke of Edinburgh accompanied the King and Queen.

After being presented to His Grace, the Duke of Montrose, I, in turn, introduced the Provosts and their wives of the six burghs in the County of Argyll.

Shortly afterwards, I was summoned to His Majesty’s presence.

The King immediately put me at ease by asking me to sit down and join him in a cup of tea. He then spoke to me of affairs of the county.

A photograph of the late King George VI, taken during 'the last war' by Cecil Beaton, which featured in the Courier at the time of his death.
A photograph of the late King George VI, taken during ‘the last war’ by Cecil Beaton, which featured in the Courier at the time of his death.

To my delight, he displayed a wide and intimate knowledge of Argyll, a county for which he said he had a deep affection.

He was keenly interested in all I told him.

After about 10 minutes’ conversation, I asked permission to withdraw but His Majesty said, ‘Do wait a little longer, please.’

I came away with the feeling that I had left a gracious King, a great gentleman and, above all, a good and sincere man. His consideration, courtesy and kindliness, combined with his deep interest in the welfare of his people in Argyll impressed me to the full and are an indelible memory.

Addresses of condolence and loyalty – Town Council’s resolution

Campbeltown Town Council resolved into a special public session during the committee meetings on Monday night to offer their respectful sympathy, devotion and loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen Mother and members of the Royal Family.

Provost R Wallace Greenlees, who presided, rose to remind members of the Town Council of ‘the sorrowful time’ through which the nation was passing and to ask them to approve of the following resolution:

  1. This Council, in special meeting, wish to convey to Your Majesty their profound sorrow at the tragic and untimely death of your illustrious father, whose memory will always be an inspiration and life a shining example to the citizens of Campbeltown.
  2. We, the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors, representing the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown do, at this time, humbly present our assurance of loyalty and deep devotion to Your Most Gracious Majesty.
  3. To Her Majesty the Queen Mother and members of the Royal Family, the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown mourns with you the loss of revered King and humbly desire to convey to Your Majesty and other members of the Royal Family our deepest and heartfelt sympathy.

The resolution was unanimously carried.

These addresses were duly sealed with the Common Seal of the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown and signed in name and on behalf of the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors by Provost R Wallace Greenlees and by Mr A I B Stewart, Town Clerk.

Messages of sympathy

Among the messages of condolence sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth were:
From Brigadier Sir Bruce A Campbell of Arduaine, Lord Lieutenant of Argyll: ‘The people of Argyll humbly offer their deepest sympathy to Her Majesty.’

The Lord Lieutenant has received the following acknowledgement from Her Majesty the Queen: ‘Am sincerely grateful for your message. Please assure all those for whom you speak that I deeply value their kindness and sympathy. Elizabeth R.’

From the County of Argyll: ‘Argyll County Council respectfully tender their most profound sympathy to the Queen, Princess Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family in the great loss which they and the nation have sustained by the passing of our beloved King.’ Signed, J G Mathieson, Convener.

The following telegram has been received from Buckingham Palace: ‘Chairman, Argyll County Council, Lochgilphead, Her Majesty has deeply appreciated your telegram of sympathy.’ Private Secretary.

From the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown: ‘On behalf of citizens of the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown, I humbly beg to convey to Your Majesty and the Royal Family our deepest sympathy in your sudden and tragic loss. We deeply deplore the passing of a life dedicated and sacrificed to the service and welfare of his country.’ Signed, R Wallace Greenlees, Provost.

On Thursday, the Provost received a telegram of acknowledgment from the Queen’s private secretary conveying thanks for Campbeltown’s expression of sympathy.

To Her Majesty, Queen Mary, Marlborough House, London: ‘On behalf of citizens of the Royal Burgh of Campbeltown, I humbly beg to convey deepest sympathy in your grievous loss.’ Signed, R Wallace Greenlees, Provost.

The Provost has received the following telegram from the private secretary to the Dowager Queen Mary: ‘Queen Mary commands me to express her heartfelt thanks for your kind words of sympathy from the citizens of the Royal Burgh.’

The late king, George VI, was died 70 years ago. 
The late king, George VI, was died 70 years ago.

The Boys’ Brigade’s tribute

The Second Campbeltown company of the Boys’ Brigade, at their meeting last Wednesday evening, paid respects to their late Patron HM, King George VI.

The boys observed two minutes’ silence and were led in prayer by one of their officers, the Reverend John Macintyre, BD, who gave thanks for the life and example of the late King and for his interest in the welfare of young people.

The Royal Naval Air Station – Queen proclaimed: prayers offered at Divisions

The Queen was proclaimed at the Royal Naval Air Station – HMS Landrail – on Friday.

A Naval Guard of Honour presented a Royal Salute as the Naval Ensign was raised to the masthead.

The Colours remained fully hoisted until the following day, when they were brought down to half-mast and will remain there until sunset tomorrow (Friday).

Prayers were offered for the new Queen at a special divine service at the station, where the officers and ship’s company paraded for divisions.

The service was taken by station chaplain the Reverend Harold F Williams who invoked the Blessing of Almighty God on the reign of Elizabeth the Second.