MEMORIES – that was the word on everyone’s lips as you squeezed through the throng in Church Street yesterday.

For the parents in the 2,000-strong crowd, it was about creating memories that their children, some of them still in buggies, would carry with them forever.


And for the older generation, the scene – a town centre awash with Union flags and imitation crowns – provoked memories of previous royal visits.

As the bell tolled at Blackburn Cathedral, and the clock struck 11am, it was odd to see such a sizeable crowd so quiet.

Then, suddenly, the anticipation gave way to a raucous cheer as Her Majesty the Queen, visiting Blackburn for the first time since 2006, progressed down Railway Road and into Church Street.

The spring sunshine, which was so pleasant earlier in the week, had given way to a grey, overcast Thursday morning.

But the warm smile on the Queen’s face as she made her way towards the cathedral lit up the faces of those who had waited for more than two hours to greet her.

The Queen, accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, arrived in Blackburn on the Royal Train just before 10.50am.

Dressed in a cerise hat and coat, she was welcomed on the platform by the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Charles Kay-Shuttleworth, and his wife, Lady Shuttleworth.

Lancashire police’s chief constable, Steve Finnegan, accompanied by his wife, Jackie, were also on hand to make their acquaintance.

As word of her imminent approach spread, staff and customers spilled out of The Mall, Blackburn Market, banks, pubs and offices to catch a glimpse of the monarch.

Photographers, amateur and professional, clambered on top of stools, benches and plinths to get the best spot for a shot.

School groups and day trippers shouted and screamed, hoping to gain Her Majesty’s attention from the roadside.

Everyone seemed to be armed with a smartphone, tablet or digital camera – a concept that would surely have been alien to the Queen when she first visited Blackburn in 1955.

Among them was 80-year-old Eileen Eastham, who was in town to see the Queen for a third time.

Sporting a Union flag top hat left over from the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, Eileen, from Darwen, said: “I’ve actually been to a garden party in Buckingham Palace.

“I was there because I was awarded the British Empire Medal for 40 years of service to the sea cadets, and then again when my sons received the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“It’s wonderful that the Queen has chosen to come to Blackburn for the Maundy service. It’s a real lift for the whole area. You can see that by how many people have turned up today.”

Stood next to Eileen was a family with a much different background, but the same unflinching support for the monarchy.

Nafisa Mulla, 44, from Shadsworth, said: “I came over to Blackburn from India in 1990 and I’m a big fan of the royal family.

“My grandfather fought in the war and my son is in the sea cadets so we feel a connection. We are all part of one big community and it’s such a big deal to have the Queen here.

“My daughter, Afraa, loves photography so she is here with her camera hoping to create some memories we can all look back on.”

The buzz of the crowd was palpable.

“Isn’t she beautiful for an 88-year-old?” whispered one woman. “She takes a brilliant photo,” cooed another.

“Is that claret she’s wearing?” queried a rather worried man in a Blackburn Rovers shirt.

For the Leigh family, the occasion was a big one.

Mum Claire, 32, said: “I just think it’s a memory that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I remember when Princess Diana came to visit my school and I want them to learn about the Royal family and have those same memories.”

In a matter of moments, the Queen’s car had passed through Church Street, turned down Darwen Street and on to the cathedral grounds.

Despite the chill, hundreds of hardy folk remained huddled outside for almost an hour, waiting for a second glimpse.

And it duly came, just after midday, as the Queen - and her seemingly ceaseless smile - exited the cathedral down Darwen Street en route to Ewood Park.

Outside the stadium was Karen Dewdney, who waited patiently with her sons, Rhys Williams and Noah Williams, both seven.

She said: “We made some Union Jack flags for the children to wave. It is a day for them to remember.”

Cheryl Schofield was also at Ewood Park with her children Harry, nine, and Martha, seven.

She said: “It’s a great opportunity for the children to come and see the Queen. You never know when you will see the monarch back in Blackburn.”

After dining with the borough’s religious and civic leaders, the Royal couple were taken to RAF Samlesbury, where a helicopter was waiting to take them home.

Among those present were Jack Straw, Blackburn’s long-serving MP, the Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Reverend Julian Henderson, and Venkatesh and Balaji Rao, co-owners of Blackburn Rovers FC.

As the crowd, young and old, dispersed into the market and the surrounding shops, it was clear that new memories had been made.

The children of Little Acorns Day Nursery, Feniscowles, were preparing to do a project on their day out. Laura Atherton, 84, chatted with her friends and compared events to the four previous royal visits she had attended.

That mixture of looking to the future and nostalgia, so evident yesterday, is also relevant to Blackburn as a town.

As the £30m work on the Cathedral Quarter progresses, the council hopes to transform it into a thriving cultural hub, centred around the historic 19th century church building.

New landscaped gardens, shops and a public square are planned; places where the people of the town can create new memories.

And, for many of Blackburn’s young people, the first of those memories may well be yesterday’s visit of the Queen.