The Queen’s Jubilee, Eric Coates and my history teacher

FOR my former history teacher at Hucknall National School, Peter Louis Gallally, now residing at Reigate, Surrey, the news that some of the Hucknall-born composer Eric Coates’s music will be performed at the pageant on the River Thames to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee must bring back happy memories.

Peter, who will be 93 years old on Friday June 29, was born on Lancaster Place, just off The Strand, London, in 1919. His late father was in the employment of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He served in the Army during the Second World War and escaped from the Normandy beaches in 1940.

He came to Nottinghamshire with the Army in the early 1940s and met his future wife, Margaret, a local Hucknall girl. They were married at the old Holy Cross Church on Carlingford Road and spent their wartime honeymoon in London.

Peter was fond of many of Eric Coates’s compositions, including his march, ‘Knightsbridge’ (from his London suite), which introduced the BBC radio programme, ‘In Town Tonight’, and also ‘Calling All Workers’, the march which introduced the Second World War radio programme, ‘Music While You Work’.

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953 reminded Peter of Coates’s well-known ‘Three Elizabeths Suite’, which the latter composed during the Second World War.

This was dedicated to the then Queen Elizabeth, who later became the Queen Mother. Coates is believed to have been the Queen Mother’s favourite composer.

Coronation Year 1953 was also made memorable for Peter by the publication of Coates’s autobiography, ‘Suite In Four Movements’, which describes many of the places in London with which Peter was familiar.

By the time the famous ‘Dambusters March’ was released in 1955, Peter, his wife and two young daughters had left Hucknall and were living in Leicestershire.

Peter later became headmaster of a school in Sussex, Coates’s favourite county.


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