Belfast Telegraph

Queen to enjoy a quiet birthday with family at Windsor

Seventy years on, Ulster woman recalls monarch's first visit here

By Rebecca Black

In jubilant 1945, after the war that had dominated her adolescence, 19-year-old Peggy Waters was among the crowds cheering as Princess Elizabeth received a rapturous reception in Belfast.

The two young women were born just two weeks apart and today, as the Queen turns 89 years old, Mrs Waters has spoken of her admiration for the monarch.

Her Majesty will celebrate her birthday quietly today with family at Windsor Castle.

The understated plans are also to Mrs Waters' taste.

The east Belfast woman, whose birthday is on May 3, has never met the Queen but has fond memories of being among the crowds that cheered her visit in 1945.

"I remember the Queen coming to Belfast after the war with her sister, Princess Margaret. We just got a glimpse but it was wonderful, it really lifted everyone's spirits," she said.

Since then the Queen has visited 20 times, before she acceded the throne in 1952 and afterwards.

She has visited Northern Ireland almost every year since 2002, proving a firm supporter of the peace process.

One of her most significant visits recently saw her shake the hand of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, while in 2011 she also visited the Republic for the first time. Mrs Waters voiced her admiration for the Queen, but said she prefers her quiet life to the demands and travel itineraries placed upon the monarch.

"I think she is really marvellous for her age, really and truly she is," she said.

"I don't think I could compete, maybe in thought, not in action.

"And she doesn't seem to be letting up, she still seems to be able to carry out all her duties and she has a lovely family behind her, and a great husband.

"I keep active, I go out every day - if I get the offer I'm away. I've one of those three wheelers and that helps me along. I love the Skainos centre, I come here twice a week. It really makes my day."

Mrs Waters said her family always make a comment when her birthday is approaching that the Queen's must be due too.

"I think that's how they always know what age she is," she chuckled.

Mrs Waters said she hasn't made many plans for her birthday, while the Queen is expected to work as usual.

A spokesman for the Royal Family told the Belfast Telegraph that while there are no official engagements in the Queen's diary today, there will be paperwork as usual.

He described the birthday celebrations that will take place as a "private family celebration".

The two women's lives came together following one of the most formative events of the 20th century - the Second World War.

Peggy was just 13 when the war started, growing up in the north Belfast area - one of the areas worst hit by the Blitz.

She can vividly recall the bombs, the air raid sirens and the blackout.

Her cousin was one of the young men killed. He died at sea.

Mrs Waters later worked for Gallahers in its old Belfast factory before moving to the east of the city with her late husband.

She has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, whom she says she "loves to bits".

The Queen so far has four great-grandchildren, including little heir Prince George, and is due to become a great-grandmother again shortly with the Duchess of Cambridge due to give birth any day now.

Her Majesty is set to become the longest ever reigning monarch in British history later this year.

On September 9, she will pass the record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Buckingham Palace has calculated that Queen Victoria reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes, taking into account 63 years, 15 leap days, additional months and days and the precise timings of her accession and death.

By September 9, Queen Elizabeth II will have served for 63 years plus 16 leap days.

Belfast Telegraph


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