If there’s one woman in Eyemouth who knows what young Ailsa Landels is feeling at the moment it’s the town’s oldest surviving Herring Queen Anne Collin.
Ailsa has the honour for 2014, but you have to turn the clock back to 1946 for the moment that Anne, then known as Anne Rosie, was crowned.
Then only 14 years old, Anne was the first post-war queen and her reign brought a feeling of real buoyancy back to the town after a six-year Herring Queen hiatus.
Like it does to her fellow Herring Queen alumni and many others in Eyemouth, the festival still means an awful lot to Anne, now 82, and she is thrilled to be welcoming all of her family to the event next weekend to mark the 70th crowning.
Anne has four children, nine grand children and an amazing 20 great grandchildren with the majority of them travelling over from America –from New Hampshire, Boston and Chicago – for the Herring Queen which officially starts with Ailsa’s crowning on Saturday, July 26.
It will be like a clan gathering for Anne and her family as with Anne’s sister Jean being queen in 1956 and daughter Margaret wearing the crown in 1969, many other relatives are also making the trip to Eyemouth, with Jean’s family coming all the way from Dubai.
With so many mouths to feed and stories to catch up on the family are having their own reception at Eyemouth Golf Club next Saturday.
“My family is what keeps me young,” said Anne.
“I’m so proud of every one of them. We’ve got a surgeon, three lawyers, a few executives of global corporations and teachers in our brood; they’ve all done very well for themselves.
“But what I think is most fortunate at my age is the fact that I’ve been able to see so many of my great grand children grow up. The oldest is coming up to eight and number 21 is on the way!
“It was my son George who suggested that everyone come over for the 70th celebrations. We normally all meet at weddings, but they’ve dried up a bit now so what better occasion!”
George is going to be Anne’s escort for next Saturday’s crowning, a role that was filled by her husband James for the 60th crowning celebrations in 2004.
James has since passed away. As a big royalist, it’s a real shame he isn’t going to be around for the 70th.
“He loved the Herring Queen and all the pomp and ceremony,” said Anne
“He was a big supporter of everything that went on in the town and I’m sure he would have been getting really excited for next weekend if he was still here. I am sad he won’t be here to see it but I’m sure George will do a grand job. James, like me, was also so proud of our family.
“The only relative not able to come across next week is my grandson who is studying at Harvard University. But we celebrated last week as he was asked to come over and read one of his papers at a big event in Edinburgh.”
The younger members of Anne’s family are mightily intrigued by what Herring Queen week entails with Anne having to fill them in on a few of the traditions.
“I sent all of them a programme a while ago so they could get a flavour of what was on. I had to explain to them what fancy dress was and they were also really excited at the fact they could actually go outside in their ‘PJs’ for the Pyjama Parade.
“I can’t wait to see them get involved in everything.”
Anne said her lasting memory from her time in the Herring Queen spotlight was being “absolutely terrified,” adding that she hoped that Ailsa would be able to enjoy her special moment.
“I’ll be looking at Ailsa during the crowning as I know exactly what she’ll be going through. She needs to take in everything as it’s something that will stay with her forever.
“I’m still hugely honoured at getting to be a Herring Queen and I still treasure the brooch that was made for me to wear for my crowning. It was made for me by a local jeweller and I’m the only one to have one like it as unfortunately he passed away the following year.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d still be here in my 80s ready to mark the 70th crowning.
“The fact that a number of the other former queens won’t be there really hammers home how lucky I am.
“Elsie, the girl who succeeded me as queen became a great friend and I know she’d have loved to be there.
“I had a great time at the 60th celebrations so I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of sunshine this time around. The town deserves it.”