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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Jubilee tour diary: Western Isles
Nick Higham on the Queens Jubilee tour
Nick Higham is following the Queen's Jubilee tour
The BBC's arts and media correspondent Nick Higham is following the Queen on her Jubilee tour of the UK.

This is the sixth in a series of dispatches from around the country.


Monday 27 May

We are in the Western Isles.

In the narrow streets behind the town hall in Stornoway on the island of Lewis and Harris, 3,500 local people, mainly schoolchildren, are shouting and cheering and waving their little Union Jacks.

The Queen looks happier than she has done for several days.

Heavens, the sun is even shining.

The Queen is no stranger in these parts.

Royal yacht

Most summers the royal yacht Britannia used to sail up Scotland's west coast, dropping anchor in remote bays for the royal party to go ashore and picnic on some deserted beach.

She has twice come to Stornoway on official visits as well.

In 1979 she was here to open the headquarters of the newly-established Western Isles Council - or Comhairle nan Eilean as it styles itself today, in this last remaining stronghold of the Gaelic language.

And in 1956 the Queen came, with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, on a tour which took her to many of the Hebridean islands.

The royal yacht ferried the party from one to another; on land Prince Philip drove her around in a little convertible Hillman, with aides and officials following in a Land Rover.

On Lewis the six-year old Prince Charles was allowed to press the button to inaugurate a new foghorn at Tiumpan Head lighthouse.

The Queen greets well-wishers in the square at Portree on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
Good weather encouraged well-wishers to attend the Royal visit
Meanwhile his parents watched a demonstration by local women of waulking the tweed - manipulating the raw cloth from which the islands' distinctive Harris Tweed is made to shrink the fibres - and singing in Gaelic as they did so.

Today in Stornoway Town Hall, in a reminder of the necessarily repetitive nature of royal visits, the Queen is treated to another demonstration.

Mary MacLeod and her friends haven't forgotten the old "luath" songs - indeed, they've sung them once before for her, way back in 1949, when as 11-year-old girls they performed for the then Princess Elizabeth at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Dressed in aprons and scarves, their reunion has brought them out in girlish giggles.

Gaelic reunion

Mary, a charming and gently-spoken woman who speaks English with the soft lilt of the native Gaelic-speaker - has a photograph of them all in Edinburgh: some haven't seen one another since.

The Queen has already visited Skye during the day.

This afternoon she is going on to Wick on the mainland for tea.

Nowadays royal tours of the Western Isles are undertaken by plane and helicopter, not by royal yacht.

The BBC News contingent has chartered a plane to get to Wick ahead of her.

While the royal party have lunch at Castle College in Stornoway, we pile into a nine-seater light aircraft and set off with a carrier bag of ham and chicken sandwiches.

On the tarmac at Wick three taxis are waiting to take us into town.

As we walk towards our camera position in the Market Place, just minutes after arriving in a town I have never visited before and will probably never visit again, with Jennie Bond leading the way down a street already lined with crowds clutching flowers and Union Jacks, I have an epiphany.

This must be what it's like to be part of a royal tour oneself.

Except that, unlike Jennie Bond, the Queen doesn't help to carry the camera equipment.


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See also:

24 May 02 | Scotland
25 May 02 | Scotland
25 May 02 | Scotland
26 May 02 | Scotland
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