‘It means an awful lot to watch this’: care home residents pay respects to the Queen


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

Mon, 19 September 2022 at 2:50 pm

<img src="https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/wdeXUBFRTTM3L7rXm2Yp_w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3NjtjZj13ZWJw/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/6jYIYMU1zVM_X10xTtGxwg–~B/aD02MDA7dz0xMDAwO2FwcGlkPXl0YWNoeW9u/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/feeac8e73ba8ebbaeead0fe16421a240&quot; alt="<span>Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer
Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer


Nan Graham, 91, sings quietly with the congregation at Westminster Abbey as they begin the first verse of The Lord is My Shepherd, one of the hymns also sung at the Queen’s marriage to Prince Philip in 1947.

She is watching the funeral of Britain’s longest-serving monarch, who was only a few years older than her, she notes, in the cinema room of David Walker Gardens, a purpose-built facility for older people managed by South Lanarkshire council.

On Monday morning the unit balances solemnity with celebration. In the dining area, tables are set for a special afternoon tea, with triangle-cut sandwiches, regally-decorated fairy cakes and flutes of sherry.

“It means an awful lot to watch this,” says Graham. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Bagpiper John Paton plays in the garden of the care home
John Paton plays the pipes in the garden of the care home. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

She has been watching the televised events across Scotland, Edinburgh and London over the past week “morning, noon and night”, she explains. “Seeing them all in my room, I felt they were near me.”

Her mother was a royalist, and her grandmother before her, “so she’s been through the generations in our family”.

Graham proudly recalls serving the Queen at two official dinners in Glasgow when she worked as a waitress in her 20s, one at the city chambers and another at the Central Hotel. “Four of us took responsibility for the top table. I remember she smiled up at me. What an honour that was.” She was so nervous her hand was shaking for days in advance.

Watching with her is Jean Gilligan, 86. “It’s very sad. She was a good yin. I always loved her hats.” Graham nods in agreement. “I think she was well-loved. You can see that here,” she says, gesturing to the crowds on the wide screen in front of her.

The camera pans along a row of senior royals in the Abbey, pausing at the Queen’s great-grand children George and Charlotte. “I think that’s the older two,” says Graham.

Gordon Cowan, who served “for Queen and country” in the Royal Navy, will celebrate his 100th birthday in November. Nursing a tumbler of whisky and water, he admires the wreath of flowers on top of the Queen’s coffin and notes the Scottish accent of Iain Greenshields, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, as he offers a prayer to the congregation.

The unit’s temporary manager, Megan Watt, is well-attuned to the need to mark moments like this with her residents, as with the platinum jubilee, when they “partied for three days”. She adds: “I think especially for the generation we look after it’s important to mark this occasion. Some fought for their country during the last war.”

Jeanette Graham and Helen Morrison with Kirsty, one of the senior care staff.
Jeanette Graham and Helen Morrison with Kirsty, one of the senior care staff. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose/The Observer

Other residents have congregated in the central garden courtyard, to listen to a piper play through a selection of Scottish airs. This area has been the focus of many landmark moments for the care facility in recent years, particularly during the pandemic, when the open air allowed residents to celebrate VE Day.

Today it is festooned with purple-trimmed portraits of the Queen at different stages of her life.

“She deserves it,” says Helen Morrison, 82. “All these people standing to watch. They all want to see her.”

“She was such a lovely person,” adds her friend, 76-year-old Jeanette Graham. “She seemed so homely, and no matter who she met she always had a smile. She had such a gentle way about her. I’m not way into the royal family but you’ve got to give respect where it’s due.”

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