Shaking hands with a royal ...half a mile down the pit!

“NOT many people shook hands with the Queen 800 metres underground.”

So said a proud ex-miner who can still remember what Elizabeth II told him when she visited Rotherham in 1975.

Ray Sherwood (80), a former underground manager at Silverwood Colliery, was 33 when the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came to town — or to the pit, to be more precise.  

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Ray said: “There was a hell of a lot of hard work that went prior to the meeting. Everybody played their part.

“Some of the workmen and boys came from very rough areas of Rotherham. “But they never said anything out of context — they never used, what you call, the Rotherham dialect.

“It was very emotional and exciting to see the Queen.

“The colliery manager was really concerned about having to spend 40 minutes with the Queen on an underground train on his own.

“He said: ‘What do I say to her for 40 minutes?’

“I was introduced by the general manager and said: ‘Good morning, Your Royal Highness.’

“She said ‘Good morning.’

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“Then she asked: ‘How are you keeping?’“I was told to call her your Royal Highness on the first question and after that, calling her ‘Ma’am’. So I told her: ‘Very well, ma’am.’

“And then she went on to be introduced to the deputy and the workmen.

“The Duke was more talkative to the youths, who were 19 or in their 20s.”

Ray’s wife Kathryn told the Advertiser he could have talked about that day forever as his memory of the occasion was still vivid.

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Ray said: “It was excellent — for the pit and the community, it was absolutely brilliant.

“It was the first time the Queen was underground at a working coalface.

“The mine was 800 metres deep, so not many people can say they got to shake hands with the Queen so far underground.

“I always admired the Queen. I always respected her. She’s been a marvellous leader in every aspect.

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“She never got involved in any arguments or debates. She was a very nice, beautiful lady.”

Ray said he and his wife had been following every programme since the Queen died.

When asked what he thought of King Charles III, Ray said he deserved a chance.

“I think he’s going to be successful,” he added.

“The Queen, in the first 20 years, was learning, but he’s not going to have that opportunity.”