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Gordonstoun pupils mark Queen’s 70-year reign with 70-minute walk after ‘emotional’ funeral viewing

Seniors carrying out the commemorative walk to mark 70 years of the Queen's service. Picture by Jason Hedges.
Seniors carrying out the commemorative walk to mark 70 years of the Queen's service. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Pupils at a Moray school with links to the royal family took part in a special tribute walk today.

The Queen visited Gordonstoun School in Elgin numerous times – both in an official capacity, and as a mum checking in on her boys during their time there.

Charles, Edward and Andrew all studied at the school, following in the footsteps of their father, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Today, as the funeral procession got under way there was a subdued atmosphere around the campus.

‘She’s been a stable, constant presence’

Girls from Plewlands House watching the funeral. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Students gathered in their houses to watch the procession together – with six girls even taking in the proceedings in the new king’s former dormitory.

Stepping into the girls common room at Plewlands House, a heady waft of biscuits marked the pouring of more than 50 cups of tea.

Girls sat cosied together on coloured sofas and dining room chairs, clutching their cups of tea and, in some instances, each other.

The silence was tangible as the Queen was taken into Westminster Abbey, with only the odd cough or smothered sniffle breaking the still.

Student Frances Taylor surrounded by friends as they watch the procession. Picture by Jason Hedges;DC Thomson.

When the funeral reached its conclusion and the national anthem played, all those in the room stood.

Frances Taylor, 16, said it was a very emotional experience.

“It was really sad, it was a moving event because she’s been a stable, constant presence so it’s a bit weird that she’s gone.

“I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did but I think seeing the whole procession and all the music and the big event made it more dramatic.”

70-minute walk to commemorate 70 years of service

Fellow pupil Edith Felmingham said she teared up a bit during the funeral.

She said: “When the Queen’s death was announced, it was just a shock and the whole of campus was pretty much quiet and everyone was just in shock and it was very emotional.

“I thought the funeral was really nice and everyone was very respectful of everyone else. I watered up a little bit at some points.

“I thought the parade when they were carrying the Queen’s coffin into Westminster Abbey was really emotional especially since she’s been crowned and married there as well.”

Seniors carrying out the walk to the Watch Tower. Picture by Jason Hedges.

Later in the day, all Gordonstoun pupils walked for 70 minutes to mark the Queen’s 70-year reign.

Bouquets were laid by students at the Watcher’s Tower, which was opened in 1955 by Prince Philip and is still used today by the coastguard.

Al McNeill, head of the maths department, shared some of his memories of the royal’s visits to the school – reflecting on the grandmotherly nature of Her Majesty.

In particular, he recalled the Queen’s quick wit during a visit to open the sports building when his oldest daughter Jenny presented her with a flower swiped from her sister Isla.

While Isla was waiting to present her bouquet to the Queen, Jenny had taken a rose from the bouquet so she had a flower to hand over.

After “graciously” accepting the bouquet from Mr McNeill’s youngest daughter, he said: “The Queen then turned to my older daughter with a big, lovely beaming smile. She said ‘What a beautiful rose, thank you so much’.

“She then sort of turned and said ‘I think I might know where this one came from.’

“It was just a lovely sort of moment of connection, a grandmotherly moment if you like. It was this kind of appeal she had with everyone.”

Al McNeill. Picture by Jason Hedges.

King has ‘enormous pair of shoes to fill’

Mr McNeill said he was “very sad” when the Queen died, but is hopeful King Charles will do her proud.

“I’m very hopeful the new king will stand in to what are metaphorically enormous pair of shoes to fill,” he said. “But I feel very hopeful that he will do a good job.

“I think the royal family are an ever present thought in people who teach here and we are ever immensely proud of our royal connections at school. And we’re constantly reminded of them because they they do visit quite frequently.

“The King now came to Gordonstoun and his character will undoubtedly have been shaped by those experiences here to some extent.”

King Charles III making an impromptu visit to the school. Supplied by Gordonstoun School.

King Charles will ‘persevere through difficulties’

King Charles III attended the school for five years and held various roles over the years, including head boy.

This year’s male guardian and head boy of the school, Joe Guttenberg, said he had not thought about their shared title until the Queen died.

“I’ve thought about it quite often in the past 10 days and I find it’s a huge honour,” the 18-year-old said.

“But the brilliant thing about Gordonstoun is that we all get taken on face value about what we do at the school rather than our history of who we are back home. So I’m not carrying on his legacy, I’m building my own.”

Despite this, he said their shared history at the school means the new king will be able to face difficulties that may be ahead.

“I have to say it’s an amazing thing for him because in school we kind of learned to be chucked out of our comfort zone and thrown into the deep end.

“It feels that King Charles will do great because he was shown this at Gordonstoun, to persevere through difficult experiences.”