Royal fan the Rev Derek Kerr, rector of Drummaul, Duneane and Ballyscullion, was one of the thousands who camped out overnight to get a bird’s eye view of the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
Derek’s delight at being amongst the crowds lining the wedding possession was captured on BBC Newsline on the night of the celebration and Derek, who returned home to Randalstown on Tuesday night, said he was really glad he had made the journey.
He is now planning to return to London for the Queen’s jubilee, perhaps taking a group of parishioners with him!
Derek, who planned his holiday to coincide with the wedding, stayed with friends, who dropped him at the back of Buckingham Palace at midnight on April 28. “I had some cushions with me so I sat down for a while and I also wandered around a bit, but it was a long night. I can get into conversation with anyone, but when people settle down to sleep or have a meal you are not part of that. It was a bit lonely,” he said.
Things inevitably livened up the following morning, as the procession from the Palace to Westminster Abbey began. Small buses ferried minor Royals and Derek said everyone, even the street cleaners, received a cheer. Derek watched as Prince Andrew and his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie drove past in their own car, followed soon after by Prince Edward and his wife Sophie. Then came the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in an open car.
“The atmosphere was wonderful. It was brilliant to be able to shout and cheer and nobody minded,” said Derek.
He was bowled over as the bride drove past with her father. This was not Derek’s first sighting of Catherine – he was among a small number of people who made their way to Greenmount during her visit to Northern Ireland with Prince William earlier this year.
“Catherine was looking really lovely. She was just full of it, she is a delightful girl,” said the clearly smitten rector. “She seems to appreciate that everyone was there to see her and she gave people attention which is what they wanted.”
The service was relayed to the crowds on the Mall by loud speakers, and Derek said the camaraderie was great – although there were a few instances of pushing and people trying to hog space with chairs, not to mention oversized Union Jack hats which restricted the view!
“There was a great cheer when they came back. The rain didn’t happen and I could see them both clearly in the carriage. They were followed by the Queen and the Duke, and the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall and all the other Royals in the buses.”
Derek then tried to get closer to the Palace. “That was when things started to get a bit fractious. The flower beds were decimated, and people began booing when the police moved people from the bottom end of the mall up to the front of the Palace. The folk who had camped out for days to get the best view were a bit miffed,” he said.
Derek witnessed at first hand the kiss on the balcony, and soon it was all over and time to make his way to his friend’s home.
Derek admits to being a fan of the institution that is the British Royal Family, although he says he does not view it through rose-tinted glasses. “There are the good and the bad, and a whole pile in between, but it is a good form of head of state and sits apart from politics,” he said.
“I’m glad I went and have already got a mate wanting to go back with me for the Jubilee next June. I may even organise it as a parish trip!”
A number of people from Belfast were privileged to take part in the wedding ceremonies, and two of them trained for their roles in Belfast Cathedral.
One was Nigel Harris, the Dean’s Verger, who held the same position when he was in Belfast.
David Martin, a Past Chorister of Belfast and former student of music at MCB and Exeter University, sang in the choir at the wedding service. As well as his post at the Abbey, his professional career takes him to perform internationally. His parents, Alan and Dorothy are members of Belfast Cathedral.
Another ex-MCB music student, Ian Keightley a most competent organist, is head of Music at Westminster School where the choristers of the Abbey are pupils. Ian’s parents are members of St Nicholas’ Parish, Belfast.
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, the Most Rev Alan Harper, a former Bishop of Connor, was among the guests at the ceremony in Westminster Abbey.
Another Ulsterman who was present was the Most Rev David Chillingworth, Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. In a message to his church members he said it would be a great privilege to attend the Royal Wedding. “Every wedding is a moment of hope and trust as people commit themselves to one another and to the unknown future. I hope that all who gather to watch the pageantry of Friday’s event will remember to hold in their prayers William and Kate – two young people who face exceptional challenges and calls to service in their lives.”
Meanwhile, the bellringers of St Patrick’s Parish Church, Ballymena, may not have made it to the Abbey, but they are always delighted to have an excuse to ring their bells and Friday April 29 was no exception!
Bells were rung in towers all over the UK to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and the lovely Kate, and among them were the bells of St Patrick’s.
The team who rang for the happy occasion were Sam Letters (Tower Captain), Colin Watt, Adam Service, Ivan Stacey, Jayne Service, Alastair Marrs, Alex McKay and Chancellor Stuart Lloyd (pictured left to right).