The Rose Queen Festivals
We have evidence that Rose Queens were crowned in neighbouring villages early last century and that there were ceremonies in Whaley Bridge earlier than 1923 but the first accounts we have been able to discover took place on 7 July 1923. This was organised by Miss Tizzy Barnes who was reported to be very experienced in organising these events. By good luck Mr William Eyre has a newspaper cutting of the ceremony in 1923 and the Amenity Society has a photograph of the same ceremony. There is also a report that the profits from the Rose Queen festivals went towards clearing the debts on the Mechanics Institute which had been built in 1876.
The streets were lined with interested onlookers, sheltered effectively by umbrellas and raincoats, and many of those taking part in the procession covered themselves similarly. It was a trying time for the children but they went through the ordeal with smiles on their faces that no quantity of rain could wash off. The procession was composed of the Whaley Bridge Public Band, the Rose Queen and her attendants, the maypole and old English dancers and members of the local branch of the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Owing to the weather, the arrangements had to be
considerably altered, and after the procession tea was provided in the Mechanics Institute and opportunity provided for the drying of wet coats.
The greatest interest was centred in the crowning of the Rose Queen, a pretty ceremony which was performed later in the Drill Hall before a large assembly. Miss Alice Jackson of Bridgemont made a dainty little Rose Queen and the crowning ceremony was performed in a very charming manner by little Miss Edith Beard, who made a speech suitable to the occasion. The little girls taking part in the ceremony all performed their parts with great distinction. They were (in addition to those already named):-
Miss Josie Smith, red bud of Love; Miss Florrie Smith, yellow bud of Charity; Miss Margaret Amfield, pink bud of Grace; Miss Louie Harrison, salmon bud of Mrtue; Miss Marian Ford, full blown rose of Love; Miss Sarah Huby, full blown rose of Charip; Miss Elsie Nadin, full blown rose of Grace; Miss Maud Adderley, full blown rose of Mrtue. The delightful ceremony concluded with the singing by the little girls of a song “Hail Dearest Queen.” The whole ceremony had been arranged by Miss T. Barnes of Bugsworth who must be highly complimented upon the success of her efforts. She also composed many of the verses which were recited by the children.
Exhibitions of maypole and old English dancing followed and again the children who had been trained by Miss Corson and Miss Woolley, fully earned the thunderous applause which greeted the termination of their efforts. The organisers of the event wish to heartily thank all those who helped towards the success.
In the 1950s and 1960s the Rose Queen ceremonies were organised by the British Legion and we have been loaned a souvenir programme from 1953 and press cuttings and pictures from 1964.
There appears to have been a gap for a year or two until the ceremony was revived in 1975 by Mrs Iris Foster, the Rector’s wife, who organised it for two years with help from the Sunday School of the Holy Trinity and Taxal churches. The Rose Queen in 1975 was Judith Slack and she was crowned in the park by Miss Elizabeth Taylor of TV and radio fame.
in 1977 when you Rose Queen committee was set up under the chairmanship of Mr Tony MacKey and the ceremony is being held each year since then. This picture taken in 1978 includes four girls who became Rose Queens.
In more recent years a link has been established between the Rose Queens and the waterways. The retiring Rose Queen and her party are brought by boat from Furness Vale by members of the Furness Vale Boat Club and at the canal basin they join the new Rose Queen before setting out on the procession through Whaley Bridge.