Young vandals smash queen's gala day throne

POLICE are investigating the vandalism of a village's prized gala day centrepiece in what appears to have been a carefully planned attack by children as young as ten.

• Eddie Fowler checks the damaged throne

The throne, traditionally used to crown every gala queen in Blackburn, West Lothian, for more than three decades was the target of the bizarre incident, leaving residents angry and bemused.

A member of the public discovered the damaged chair, which is at least 35 years old, in the car park of Blackburn Community Centre and called in the police.

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Vice-president of the Blackburn Children's Gala Day committee, Davie Richardson, said: "From what we can gather, a young girl had asked to use the toilet then opened the rear fire exit and allowed three boys into the centre. The store room, where the throne is kept, had been accessed and they had smashed the throne up. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I found out. I couldn't understand how somebody could do that to something belonging to the gala day. The whole committee is devastated."

Mr Richardson, 38, who lives in Blackburn, described the youths as "mindless yobs" and said hundreds of pounds worth of damage had been caused to the armrest and the back support of the chair. It is unclear whether it can be repaired in time for the next gala in June.

He added: "We have been working tirelessly throughout the year to raise funds for next year's centenary gala day, and this is just something we can do without.

"The chair has a lot of history. The gala day first had a queen in 1953 and we think it could be as old as that, but we're not sure.

"It's not just a chair, it is a proper throne for the queen to sit on."

The mahogany throne, which is decorated with blue velvet and gold trimming, has a value of between 150 and 200.

Murrayfield Primary pupil Nicole Hannah will be crowned queen at Blackburn Children's Gala Day on June 11 next year.

Mr Richardson added: "We will pull out all the stops to make sure we have a chair for next year's gala day."

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The chair is kept in the store room of the community centre on Ash Grove and only comes out once a year to be used for the crowning.

Grandfather-of-three Eddie Fowler, 60, who is the president and treasurer of the committee, said: "The problem is the chair can't be replaced, it has as much sentimental value as anything else.

"This is an extra cost that we don't need."

The incident happened at around 6.45pm on Thursday. The youths are described as being aged between ten and 14.

A police spokesman said: "The armrest and the back support were split, and while the financial cost of the damage is as yet unknown, the chair has enormous sentimental value to the local community."

Anyone with information should contact police on 0131- 311 3131, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.