Queen's funeral: Ballater stays at home as tourists settle in pub to say farewell
If Deeside had opened its arms following the death of the Queen, today it turned inwards for her funeral.
Thousands ventured into the area to pay their respects to the Queen in the place she loved best, the communities of Ballater, Balmoral and Braemar long regarding her as a friend, a neighbour.
But this was a morning for them to be at home. Ballater was at a standstill, like a ghost town compared to days since the Queen’s death, when it became a magnet for mourners, supporters and the just curious.
In the early morning streets, a few mountain bikers got ready to spend the extra bank holiday in the hills and a German tour bus dispatched its passengers for a quick stroll around the deserted village.
Only one shop was open for business, with business brisk at AB Yule newsagent and toy shop as people piled in for their morning papers and extra milk to see them through a day at home before it shut at 10:30am to allow store owner Alan Yule and his staff to get home to watch the service on the television.
Mr Yule said the village had come together on Sunday night for a service in the square, where pipers had played and the minute’s silence observed by the community, bar a couple of barking dogs.
"Sunday night was the last gasps of paying respect to the Queen together, not just here, but all across the Commonwealth,” he said. “Today, everyone will be at home watching it on the gogglebox. She was like a neighbour here and if you lost a neighbour, you would probably want to be at home too.”
Two pubs opened in Ballater to screen the service. The Barrel on Church Square took a late decision to open up, not least given the chance that a tour bus from Ireland may make a stop. Also, its regulars who live alone wondered where they might watch it. So, the fire was lit, the soup was on and the doors opened just after 11am.
Over at the Balmoral Bar, around ten people trickled in shortly after it opened at 10:30am to watch the service with pots of tea, shortbread and later a few pints served. At least customers were from the United States and keen to see it with locals, although locals didn’t turn up in the same numbers.
Debbie Meyers, 61, of South California, and family found themselves in the middle of the national mourning period after arriving in Scotland last Monday, with their time in Ballater already booked as part of their itinerary.
She said: “We wanted to experience the funeral with the people of Scotland, with the locals."
Ms Meyers became emotional when describing her family’s time in Edinburgh, where they witnessed the Queen’s coffin going up the Royal Mile from St Giles’ Cathedral.
"They way the people came out, how silent and civilised they were, I will remember that,” she said.
"It was very reverential. I kept thinking how that would never happen in America, where there is always someone protesting, someone is always angry about something. People here were so respectful, although I know there was that hullabaloo about that man protesting about the Prince. It was such a solemn event.”
While the Queen’s death had not dominated their holiday, it had given it a different nuance, Ms Meyers said.
"When we were in Edinburgh, we had a tour cancelled and we were disappointed at first,” she said. “We decided to lean into the experience and to appreciate the moment in history we were witnessing. Now we are here.”
Tom Rooney, 43, and Kerry Brown, 38, had been visiting friends in Aviemore over the weekend and decided to stop off in Ballater on Sunday to be in Deeside on the day of the funeral.
Ms Brown said: “We thought given the royal connection it would be nice to come to Ballater. I thought the service really felt quite Scottish. It was a lovely service.”
An afternoon of walking the dog was on the cards for the couple before heading home to Edinburgh.
Tim Woessner and his wife Jeanette, from Minneapolis, are in Ballater for several days as part of a long- arranged holiday to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.
Mr Woessner, 51, who works in marketing, said: “The funeral is such a historic event that I thought it was appropriate to come out to see it. On one level as a spectacle, it is very impressive. The US is obviously a much younger country and we don’t have these centuries-old traditions, so I do find it interesting. We have presidential funerals, of course, but nothing like this.”
For Misti Andrews, 63 and her husband Mark, from Denver, Colorado, their two-week holiday in the UK became shaped by the Queen’s death. After arriving in London and being unable to get a room, they headed to Edinburgh and then to Ballater.
Mrs Andrews, a retired engineer, said: “We really just felt we wanted to go to Balmoral and be close to the place that she passed. I think that is just wanting that human connection. Today, for us, it was just really worth taking the time to come here and to be here for the funeral.”
Over at The Barrel, friends Neil McKenzie and George Catto – both retired – and Norman Nicol, a semi-retired council worker, had a pint while watching the funeral.
Mr Nicol said: “It was a good ceremony, done properly. I used to work on Balmoral, contracted to do the trees and the Queen was lovely, she was so down to earth, there was no pomp about her.”
As heavy pageantry, choir and tradition elevated the Queen on her final journey in London, on Deeside there was a low-key, more private mood. She would have no doubt approved.
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