Queen's death: Warm memories of the dancing, laughing Queen as crowds head to Balmoral to pay respects

The sky lifted, the mist cleared and a mood of warm reflection came in.

People flowed into Lower Deeside yesterdayto lay flowers for Elizabeth II, with shuttle buses transporting mourners, well wishers and the simply curious as all roads appeared to lead to the gates of Balmoral.

People of all generations made there way there, from those who remembered standing to sing God Save The Queen, to those who felt they had lost a parent, to those still young enough to sit on their father’s shoulders to witness this turning in time and the dawn of a new monarchy.

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“It’s the end of an era that connects everyone I know,” said fiddler Paul Anderson, from Tarland in Aberdeenshire.

Fiddler Paul Anderson with his wife, traditional singer Shona Donaldson, recalled fun nights of music and dancing with The Queen. PIC: Contributed.
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Mr Anderson and his wife, traditional singer Shona Donaldson, were among those to pay tribute at the gates of Balmoral Castle.

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He remembered fondly the Queen’s love of traditional Scottish music and dancing, and the night he found the Queen in his set for the Dashing White Sergeant at the Ghillies Ball at Balmoral.

"She loved traditional country dancing and often she would be first up on the floor for the Grand March and wanting everyone to join in,” Mr Anderson recalled. “Then suddenly you found her in your set for the Dashing White Sergeant. She was beaming from ear-to-ear.”

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Window cleaner Chris Farrell reflected on the sombre mood in Ballater following the death of the Queen. PIC: Contributed.

Reverend Kenneth MacKenzie, of Crathie Kirk, organised the pair to perform at the church for the Queen. Mr Anderson also took part in a private service at Balmoral for The Queen, Princess Anne and a Royal ‘bubble’ of staff at Balmoral during the first summer of lockdown.

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"It was quite surreal as I was playing in this massive room and the closest people to me were the Queen and Princess Anne,” he said.

There, Mr Anderson played a number of tunes, from self-penned Iona and Balmoral to the Lament for King George V. Following the service, the fiddler was taken to meet the Queen and Princess Anne before leaving.

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Friends Jo Phelan and Val Morrison, from Inverurie, arrive at Balmoral to lay flowers for The Queen.
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“One of the first thing’s she asked me was ‘how’s Shona?’ That’s what she was like. She had a great memory and was always kind,” Mr Anderson said.

Ms Donaldson added: “The times that we played for her, her foot was always tapping and she would give you a little smile. You knew she was enjoying it.”

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Much has been spoken about the Queen’s love for Deeside, a place where she found space, peace and fun with her family. This part of the world has long afforded the royal family that.

Ms Donaldson said: “In Deeside we see the Queen and her family differently to how others see them. You see them relaxed and enjoying themselves, a side that perhaps other parts of the country don’t see.”

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Louise Maclean from Aberdeen with a heather to lay for The Queen.

At HM Sheridan butchers in Ballater, where quail eggs and poussin were among the royal order, the genuine sadness at the loss was tempered with a business-as-usual pace, which is likely just the way the Queen would have wanted it.

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Butcher Brian Scott said staff had “their suspicions” the Queen was in poor health after seeing the photograph taken ahead of the meeting with Prime Minster Liz Truss on Tuesday.

“We had never seen her like that,” he said. “When we have seen her, she has always been bubbly. To see her so frail was quite a shock.

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“Today I think everyone pretty much has their head down. Then again we have to carry on our day-to-day business. It's really hard, hard to keep speaking about it. It is a sad moment in Ballater and she has done so much for the town and the area. She was also quite a good laugh.”

Window cleaner Chris Farrell took a day off his rounds following the Queen’s death and headed to the Balmoral Bar for a quiet pint with his terrier after doing his banking in Ballater.

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“There is a sense of sadness and the mood is sombre,” he said. “I was in the bank earlier and the staff were subdued. People around here are a very loyal lot and the Queen and her family are seen as neighbours.”

In the queue for the shuttle bus was Louise Maclean from Aberdeen, who held a purple heather to lay at Balmoral Castle.

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She said: “It is just so Deeside, the bonnie bloom of heather. This part of Scotland was so special to the Queen. When you see all the family photos of them here, you know they just had a lovely time here.

"I believe the Queen really had this great physical and mental health. After losing her husband, I think she wanted to get to her Jubilee. Then with Boris [Johnson] gone, she then had to see in the new Prime Minister. Then, I really think she felt she could go.”

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Up on Invercauld Estate, which borders Balmoral, the Queen once happily took to the hills with her late husband Prince Philip and Captain Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld MC, Scotland's longest serving clan chief who died in October last year, aged 102. All once great friends, all now are gone.

“It feels like the end of an era,” said Invercauld estate manager Angus McNicol.

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The Queen and Prince Philip would join Captain Farquharson for grouse shooting, or sometimes she would just drive up to find them for lunch.

“She was great friends with Captain Farquharson and he himself had a very long connection with the land, with the estate and the local community,” Mr McNicol said. “That was a passion that he and the Queen shared.”

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He added: “I heard the Queen described as a rock and I think that is quite fitting. Amid all the changes, the prime ministers, the political ups and downs, she was an element of steadiness underlying it all.”

Just then, Lochnagar, a favourite royal haunt that overlooks the estate, came into full view as the cloud cleared its peak for the first time in several days. One mighty rock, always there.

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