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1978 – The Donaldsons “A Right Royal Family”

It is often said that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but for Mrs May Donaldson and her daughters Helen and Margaret this widely held belief proved a myth when within the space of five years the girls were crowned Monarchs of Bo’ness.

For a family to produce one Fair Festival Queen is a milestone and an event which is a conversation piece of a lifetime. For the honour to visit twice in one family, the experience must be shattering.

Because of this, we interviewed the Donaldsons to find out how a family is affected by two such glittering occasions and how they dealt with the pressures.

Q1. Having received the news that your daughter Helen had been chosen as Queen-Elect……. can you tell how it felt?

A1. The whole family were thrilled, just as any family would be. I was very happy for Helen, while at the same time I was apprehensive about all that was involved .

I knew that we would be advised on what to do, but, strangely, my main worry was would the weather behave itself, sunshine makes all the difference.

Q2. With one Queen in the family, how did you react to Margaret being chosen five years later?

A2. When you have a daughter in the Queen’s class I suppose the thought crosses your mind. But history never repeated itself before and I thought in inconceivable that Margaret would follow Helen.

However, having been through it all before, I felt a bit more confident the second time. I don’t mean that the pressure was any easier, I don’t think that anyone could get used to that. I was, of course, very pleased indeed for Margaret.

Q3. What is it like as a girl facing the pressures from the time you are chosen until the big day itself?

A3. (Margaret) We both felt that we were not aware of pressure until the Fair week.
(Helen) – The build-up during the week before the Fair is something else again. The extra rehearsals and perfecting the Queen’s Speech for the Fair Dinner sharpens the excitement. Visitors coming to our home, Fair officials, the Provost, Police and, of course, representatives from school all builds up the atmosphere.

Q4. As sisters, did you exchange advice on how to act on the big day?

A4. (Margaret) Helen was a very big help to me indeed. She came with me to the school on the Fair morning helping me to keep calm. I can always remember her saying: “Remember and wave to the old folk and keep smiling all day.”

Q5. How did you girls react to the news that you had been chosen as Queen-Elects?

A5. (Helen) I was very excited, but I got back to normality quickly. However, having my dress fitted and having to attend meetings at school charged the atmosphere a bit. (Margaret) I was fifteen years old at that time and I was more conscious of what was ahead of me. But no one can appreciate the intense excitement which every young Queen experiences.

Q6. Your positions were unique….. Helen you were the last Queen from the old St Mary’s, and Margaret you were the first from the new St Mary’s School. What were your lasting impressions?

A6. (Helen) I was more aware of the change than Margaret. The old St Mary’s just along the road from the Glebe Park so the journey to the park was quite short. Margaret’s journey from the new St Mary’s was that much longer and, of course, her introduction to being in the public eye on the Fair morning was correspondingly stretched. But the send-off from the new school was very impressive and much more keeping with the occasion.

Q7. What is your vivid memory of your coronation?

A7. (Margaret) I can remember the day getting off to a really royal occasion when Inspector Bob Cossar came in the morning and said: “Good morning, is her Majesty ready.”

The drive in the carriage was marvellous and really set the pace for the whole day. It gave me confidence and installed a right royal feeling. I can remember my teachers, especially Mr Power who trained all of us. They were very kind and helpful.

(Helen) My memory of the Fair morning at the old St Mary’s was our headmaster, Mr Fennie. I was his last Queen and he wanted everything to be perfect. He was very emotional as he attended to all of us.

I also remember the heat of the day with people fainting all round. I remember Chief Constable Merrilees being most attentive to me. I can also remember being interviewed by Ken Waddell of the ” Journal and Gazette. ” He told me not to be frightened the crowds or the cameras.

Q8. Finally, what would be your message to this year’s Queen.

A8. We would advise her to enjoy every moment of her big day. She will remember it all her life, and can we wish her every good wish and hope that the weather will be kind so that all of Bo’ness can enjoy this great occasion.


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