It had been 54 years since the Queen last visited Midlothian, so her arrival last week was well worth the wait.
More than 1000 people crowded into and around Newtongrange’s new rail station. Vantage points were found from nearby windows, paths and pavements to catch a glimpse of our monarch.
Some hardened enthusiasts had been waiting since 8.30am to witness the Queen officially open the station, one of four in Midlothian, as part of the new Borders Railway.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was due to arrive shortly before 11am but her delay was announced by Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie.
Foggy weather at Balmoral meant the royal party would be late in arriving at Waverley Station where they would get on the Union of South Africa train bound for Tweedbank.
Spirits were kept up by some lively music played by Newtongrange Silver Band.
Sooner than expected, the steam train chugged into the station, shortly before noon, and to a huge cheer the Queen and other dignitaries disembarked. She was welcomed to Midlothian by Lord Lieutenant Sir Robert Clerk and introduced to Provost Joe Wallace, council leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone, Mr Lawrie, John Gilhooly, a third generation former railway worker, and Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson.
The Queen and the Duke went on a short walkabout chatting to local residents, school children, business and community leaders.
Members of the Royal Company of Archers formed a guard of honour on the concourse and the Lord Lieutenant’s cadets, Sergeant Jamie Butler and Flight Sergeant Ian Ross, were also in attendance
Welcoming the Queen to Midlothian, Councillor Wallace paid tribute to all those involved in the construction of the new railway. “The Borders Railway will act as a catalyst for economic growth in Midlothian, strengthen transport connections and maximise opportunities for business, employment, tourism and leisure.”
The Queen visited Midlothian on the day she made history in becoming Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
To cheers and much flag-waving from the crowds, Councillor Wallace congratulated Her Majesty and invited her to unveil the plaque to open the station.
Newtongrange Primary pupil Cerys Hares (11) presented the Queen with a posy of pink and cream roses, prepared by Flowers by Lamb, Dalkeith. Cerys had admitted to being “really nervous” about her duties but said the best bit about the morning “was going up to the Queen”. Afterwards, Ms Sturgeon gave Cerys a congratulatory cuddle.
The Queen and the rest of the royal party returned to the train just after 12.05pm and set off on the final stage of the journey to Tweedbank for the official opening of the Borders Railway.
As the Queen left, Newtongrange Silver Band played Will Ye No Come Back Again?
Of the royal visit, Sir Robert said: “She was thrilled to see everyone and was very touched by the comments made by members of the public. She received a great number of posies and it was great a number of people had the opportunity to congratulate her.”
Former Newtongrange resident Mrs Evelyn Dorans said she had arrived at 8.30am to get a good spot to view the Queen. She was able to chat to the Duke of Edinburgh, who asked how long they had been waiting. “I wouldn’t have missed this. It was just amazing. It was just amazing to see her here on this special day,” she said.
Newtongrange Primary head teacher Isabel Marshall brought all 360 pupils from the school to see the Queen, who stopped to speak. “She asked me what my role was here and I told her I was with the children and she asked how many children were here,” said Mrs Marshall. “It has been a very exciting day.”
Deputy Lieutenant Gregor Murray introduced the Queen to two local business representatives – MacTaggart Scott chairman Richard Prenter and Lucy Caldwell from Newbattle Abbey College. The Queen visited both places during her 1961 tour of the county.
“It has been a great morning,” said Mr Murray. “It was such a pleasure to meet her on this day when she becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch. It was so amazing.”
Mr Prenter said he was “very honoured” to have been introduced to the Queen, recalling her visit to the Loanhead engineering works in 1961 and highlighting the firm’s work on the new Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
Accompanied by her mother Jean, Lynn Mann, of Carrington-based Supernature Oils, said the Queen admitted the weather in Midlothian was “a bit better than it was at Balmoral this morning”.
Dalkeith businessman Matin Khan said meeting the Queen made it a “lovely day”. “I said to her ‘may God give you a long life’. She is a special lady,” he added.