Memories come buzzing back of the Queen's only visit to Ludlow

Memories of the day Queen Elizabeth II visited Ludlow Market in 2003 have come flooding back for a dedicated and long serving stallholder.

Queen Elizabeth II searches for the queen bee on a stand at Ludlow Market
Queen Elizabeth II searches for the queen bee on a stand at Ludlow Market

Billy Auger, now aged 58, of the Augernik Fruit Farm, in Hopton Wafers, near Cleobury Mortimer, remembers having one too many in a local hostelry before meeting the Queen who took a 25-minute walk around Ludlow Market.

"She said she liked the fact that we use traditional brown paper bags, rather than plastic bags," recalls Mr Auger of the royal visit on Thursday, July 1, 2003.

The Queen talks to Michael Leviseur of the Organic Smokehouse

The Queen's only visit to Ludlow, in the year after her Golden Jubilee, saw her arrive by Royal Train in Telford. She and Prince Philip visited Much Wenlock to take in the Wenlock Olympian games. And Mr Auger remembers the Royal Train being parked up at Ludlow Rail Station for the visit.

Also included in the day were dignitaries, a host of councillors and officials including Kate Norman, the market organiser at the time.

Her Majesty took lunch at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, in Craven Arms, before her visit to Market Square.

Thousands of people turned out to her walkabout. Local MP Philip Dunne recently told parliament that it was the "first visit by a reigning monarch in more than 300 years".

Billy Auger pictured at his stall on Sunday

"Most visits by her predecessors had been at the head of an army," he told fellow MPs.

Mr Auger, who had on the day been with his wife, Liz, now aged 58, said he recalls being "two parts to the wind" after enjoying a drink with some of Her Majesty's support team.

"It was a hot day so we went for a quick snifter or two before Her Majesty arrived," he said.

The public was excluded from the market while the Queen took time to meet stallholders and to chat to them. She then went off to look around the Medieval castle which at the weekend just gone was buzzing with the town's annual food festival.

The Queen talked to an apiary stallholder and was pictured taking a look for the queen bee in the throng of insects that she closely inspected. Headlines the next day inevitably referred to the Queen looking for her buzzing namesake.

Mr Auger remembers that the Queen was "very nice" to everyone.

Ludlow Market in 2003

With a tinge of sadness he said that the Queen was the "Mother of the nation" and her death had been sad, although at her great age it was "inevitable".

"She worked for 70 years," he added.

Mr Auger also thinks that the monarchy is now in safe hands with the accession of King Charles III.

"I like Charles, I met him once," he said. "He is very pro-farmer."

Mr and Mrs Auger have one child, Billy, who at 17, was born two years after the royal visit. Billy, although he was working with his dad on the stall on Sunday, is not thinking of following his parents into farming and stallholding. With his A-levels on the horizon next year he is hoping to work in nuclear engineering.

The Augers were on duty on the day that town mayor, Councillor Glenn Ginger read the proclamation for His Majesty King Charles III at the town's Peace Memorial.

Queen Elizabeth II enjoying a joke during a visit to Ludlow Market

Councillor Ginger said: "Our sadness at this time is shared by people across the globe, as we remember with affection and gratitude the lifetime of service given by our longest-reigning monarch."

The ceremony, which included town Sergeant at Arms Nick Chapman, town councillors, clergy and officials, was the proclamation to the people of Ludlow of the beginning of the new king's reign.

large crowd greeted the proclamation with hearty cries of God Save The King and a rendition of the reworded National Anthem that was lead by players from the Ludlow Concert Band.

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