by The Rambler 12/04/2002
THE announcement of the death of the Queen Mother evoked memories of my early days in the civil service as a schoolboy entrant.
I was one of a small group of five boys: Alex Hull from Armagh, Bill Noble from Ards, Fred Masterson from Fermanagh and Charlie Grant from Newry, engaged in assessing income and determining need (as the Regulations had it) as part of the process of administering the new scheme of state 'means-tested' unemployment assistance.
All our colleagues were veterans of World War One, and there were about sixty of them.
Only ex-servicemen were eligible until the first batch of schoolboys were appointed by open competition.
In early 1936 came news that King George V was dying. It came in the form of a melancholy radio bulletin repeated ad nauseam at intervals like a bell tolling.
John Stagg was the announcer (I think).
"The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close." All day long it continued much to the distaste of listeners as was voiced subsequently by many irate listeners.
When the end was announced, blinds were drawn but work continued.
McCoubrey, the caretaker, lowered the Union flag but otherwise things continued as usual, except that we closed a day for the funeral, much to the delight of my schoolboy peers and myself.
Mass unemployment had caused seething unrest with uprisings widespread nationally and Northern Ireland was no exception, and we knew we were very fortunate in gaining permanent pensionable posts.
F C Moore, who had transferred in from Dublin Castle inducted me and gave me an assurance that even if the Stormont government ceased to exist I would be absorbed by whatever government took over. That was very comforting. (In 1972 I recalled it).
F C is remembered as the author of a hilarious work entitled, 'My Countrymen By An Irishman" which I got from the Linenhall Library pre-war.
Moore was the senior officer at national assistance board headquarters at Ormeau Avenue.
'Teddy' as the then Prince of Wales was called was heir to the throne and in bad odour with the establishment.
Firstly he had sympathised with militants in the ranks of the unemployed. I think it may have been the Welsh miners. But, far more serious, was the philandering with another man's wife, an American called Wally Simpson.
He had got himself 'talked about' to use an Ulsterism and when the age-old announcement "The King is dead: long live the King" set him on the throne as King Edward VIII, a shudder went through Parliament.
Sadly, his new responsibilities did nothing to curb the ardour of 'Teddy', and he made no secret of where he was heading.
He had to have 'the woman he loved' his own words, whether the powers-that-were liked it or not.
Soon the knives came out, led by the P.M. (Stanley Baldwin, I think). No way could 'Teddy' marry Wallis and keep the throne.
A divorce put the fat in the fire. There was no way of stopping the King except legislation and that was swiftly enacted. Teddy had to go!
One bleak winter evening the BBC broadcast Edward VIII's valedictory statement. He could not continue without the woman he loved so he had renounced the throne and accepted exile. Off he sailed on board a British warship, as plain Mr Windsor.
Quite a drama.
"That dreadful day" was how his beknighted younger brother George was later quoted.
George, a shy delicate individual who had shunned the public eye, and, for personal reasons, never spoken in public, was saddled with the throne and became George VI.
Happily, very happily, he had a stalwart helpmate in his wife, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, whose life story has filled many pages this week.
I need not add to them except to say that her fame will be enshrined forever in the annals of British history.
What a lady! Deservedly the nation has saluted her. For sixty six years she mothered British royalty in a truly commendable manner and won the acclaim of all.