Golden recollections of a day the magnificent seven spent with Duke

For Ross Vickers of Wellington, May 16 marks a diamond anniversary – of the day he and his schoolmates went to Buckingham Palace and picked up their Gold awards in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

The seven award winners with Wrekin MP Bill Yates (pointing) outside the Houses of Parliament. Left is school head Harold Fletcher, deputy head Norman Pickering, and then pupils George Hull, David Jones, David Hall, Ross Vickers, Billy Acton, Arthur Howells and Raymond Williams.
The seven award winners with Wrekin MP Bill Yates (pointing) outside the Houses of Parliament. Left is school head Harold Fletcher, deputy head Norman Pickering, and then pupils George Hull, David Jones, David Hall, Ross Vickers, Billy Acton, Arthur Howells and Raymond Williams.

It was the triumphant culmination of three years of hard work and dedication in what was then still a fairly new scheme, made up of three ascending stages with Gold the pinnacle.

The anniversary of the personal milestone has been made particular poignant by the death of the Duke of Edinburgh at the age of 99.

Mr Vickers says he has many special memories of both taking part in the scheme and picking up his award.

He was one of the first to take part in the scheme, which mixes adventure with community work. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers have benefited since and most schools continue to be affiliated to it, offering their students the chance to enhance their life skills and experience.

Ross with his cherished Gold award badge.

Mr Vickers, who is now 77, recalls meeting the Duke.

"He came and chatted to us and asked us what we had been doing for the awards, and I think he wanted to know how we had got involved," he said.

The awards scheme was an innovation of the Duke of Edinburgh and one of his great legacies.

"We were from Trench Boys' School. I enjoyed doing it. I believe that anybody who got through to the Gold didn't go off the rails. Twenty-one of us started, but only seven of us finished.

"It carried a lot of weight with local employers. I was at Audley Engineering in Newport. I did an apprenticeship. They supported you by letting you have the time off."

A treasured invitation to Buckingham Palace.

While in London on that day, May 16, 1961, the boys, who had by then left school, met the Wrekin MP Bill Yates who took them on a conducted tour of the Houses of Parliament.

The "magnificent seven" were George Hull, David Jones, David Hall, Ross Vickers, Billy Acton, Arthur Howells and Raymond Williams.

Ross lived at the time in Hadley.

"There were three levels, Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I have them at home, and the certificate. Besides that I was the first person in Shropshire to hold both the Gold award and the Queen's Scout award, so I have one signed by Philip, and one signed by the Queen."

Ross undertaking one of his tasks as part of the scheme – making a canoe on his own.

He and his fellow award winners held a silver jubilee celebration dinner at the White House at Muxton to mark the 25th anniversary of their award.

"To tell the truth I'm not now in contact with any of the other six, and don't even know if they are alive or dead. I don't know what's happened to them, which is sad really."

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