Friday, 12 August 2022

River pageant marks sixty years since coronation

MORE than 90 boats paraded up and down the Thames in Henley to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

MORE than 90 boats paraded up and down the Thames in Henley to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

Hundreds of spectators lined the riverbanks to watch the floating pageant on Sunday.

The vintage, classic and character craft assembled at Temple Island and then headed upstream towards Henley Bridge, which was bustling with onlookers waving union flags.

The flotilla was led by 140-year-old steam boat Sabrina, cruising several lengths ahead of the others and blasting its whistle. As it approached the bridge, the crew lowered the boat's chimney so it would fit underneath.

Sabrina was followed by 92 other craft including a range of launches, rowing skiffs and cruisers. Many were decorated with flowers and union flags or red, white and blue pennants and balloons.

Among those taking part were the 38ft naval pinnace Snipe and the steamship Alaska, which acted as back markers, and Hobbs of Henley's 100-year-old umpire launches Enchantress and Elsie.

There was also an amphibious car called Platypus and an American-style mini-tug called Taurus.

Most of the crews were dressed in the style of 1953, the year the Queen was crowned at Westminster Abbey, and several wore masks bearing the faces of members of the royal family.

Winston Churchill lookalike Ian Beyts, who appeared at last year's jubilee river pageant, took part again. Dressed in a suit and bowler hat, he gave Churchill's iconic victory salute to cheers from the crowds.

The boats turned round at Mill Meadows, where hordes of onlookers had set up picnics, and then paraded in circuits between the bridge and the River and Rowing Museum.

Thames Side and the towpath next to Mill Meadows were bustling with spectators and the riverside beer garden at the Angel on the Bridge pub was full.

Shortly after 1pm, the Lord-Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson, joined Henley Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak on the top deck of Sabrina. The pair took the official salute from the rest of the pageant.

Afterwards, the participants moored up and ate lunch aboard their boats.

A prize for the best-dressed participants was awarded to the crew of Henley town councillor Will Hamilton's boat Topsilk.

Mr Hamilton, of Greys Road, Henley, and crewmate Julian Glasspole, from Shiplake, impressed judges with their matching suits and top hats and won a bottle of champagne.

The Magic Rose was judged to be the best decorated boat.

The afternoon was in aid of the Rivertime Boat Trust, which runs river trips for the disabled on a specially-adapted boat called Rivertime. The money came from boat owners and bucket collections on the day.

Pageant organiser Jan Beyts said: "I'm thrilled with how it went. The night before, you worry that it's all going to go wrong but it all went beautifully and was an absolute pleasure to watch.

"Everybody on the river was very sweet. They moved out of the way for us, smiled and happily allowed the procession through.

"The boats all turned up looking absolutely gorgeous and the Lord Lieutenant really enjoyed it. He was amazed by the quality of the boats and the numbers of people who came to support us.

"It was a really happy day for everyone."

Mr Stevenson, who is the Queen's representative at county level, said: "Gathering together that number of boats of all different sorts - and they were carefully selected, I think - and enabling them to go past in such fine order was a great achievement.

"What was really good for me was that, although there were diamond jubilee celebrations all over the place last year, there's not very much going on to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

"However, as always, Henley has come out fighting and done a wonderful job."

Councillor Gawrysiak said: "The boats looked absolutely splendid but the skippers and the crews who dressed up were what made it. They made the boats look colourful and they provided a spectacle and entertainment for everyone.

"It has been wonderful to celebrate the Queen's coronation in this way. It epitomises what Henley is about - getting out and doing things, showing off a little bit and just having a fun time."

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