A SALFORD Priors man who celebrated his 89th birthday last Thursday said the day he attended The Queen’s Coronation changed his life.
At the time, John Jones worked on the railways and lived in Oswestry in Shropshire where he had grown up and gone to school.
Back then, aged around 19, he was on the North Shropshire district youth committee which used to decide on which young people’s groups and organisations received Government cash for events or rent for venues.
During his role on the committee and later as secretary, he had the opportunity to attend events he would not have otherwise been able to go to and it was through this his invite to The Queen’s big day came about.
On the day in 1952, he travelled down to London where he was met by a the chief scout whose son would be John’s escort for the day.
When they arrived, they were directed to a stand by the door of Westminster Abbey where there were other young people – each representing a different Commonwealth country from around the World. John was representing the youth of Great Britain.
John said: “The first thing I remember is seeing The Queen of Tonga arrive – it was hours before the Coronation was due to start and she was in an open-top carriage despite heavy drizzle.”
John’s escort suggested they cross the road to get closer to the procession and they ended up being only a few feet away from The Queen-to-be’s carriage when she arrived with the Duke of Edinburgh.
“When they went in, we went back outside and I remember someone had a small transistor radio where we listened to the service.”
John’s escort, who knew London well, told him to wait until the procession was leaving and they jumped in behind a guards’ band and followed the parade.
Later in the day the pair took a train and went outside Buckingham Palace where the new Queen and other royals made appearances on the balcony throughout the evening.
John added: “There was a lot of partying going on – I remember a man, glass in hand, serenading a lamp post, saying it was the most beautiful one he had ever seen.”
At the end of the day, John was escorted back to the tube and then Paddington where he boarded the first of two trains to take him back to Oswestry.
“I remember three things about that day – I had not applied to go, I was never told exactly how or why I had been chosen and it changed my life forever.”
John was now seeing his job on the railways as ‘a bit mundane’ and wanted to do something different.
It led to his life going in a completely different direction and a multitude of achievements.
Professionally long-term he trained at Worcester College and was an apprentice at the Royal Radar Establishment at
Malvern College. Here he had to sign the Official Secrets Act relating to his work and met The Queen.
He then worked as a teacher in three schools in Pontsbury, near Shrewsbury, Oakworth in Yorkshire and at Blackminster in Evesham.
Prior to his first teaching job he met Audrey, his wife to be, and they had three sons – David, Richard and Jonathan and a daughter Sarah.
In between the Coronation and his teaching career – from 1954 to 1956, John, a keen singer and dancer who competed in both, also spent three summers at Butlins holiday parks after being invited to become a Red Coat.
He added: “Most people applied to Butlins or got there through agencies – I did not know anyone else who had been invited to become one.”
John was spotted and earmarked for the role because of his singing and dancing talent and during his three summer stints – at Pwlheli and Brighton – he also taught ballroom dancing to the holidaymakers and shared a room with 321 TV presenter Ted Rogers.
When John was teaching in Evesham, the family moved to Harvington and he took early retirement when he was 59.
A chance meeting with a psychologist he had known from years ago gave John the opportunity to do some supply teaching for 14 years.
John and Audrey moved into a bungalow in Salford Priors where he still lives now.
John said: “Looking back I have done a lot over the years and it all happened after the Coronation which really did change my life.”