Editor’s Diary: A Chance Encounter

View of a lake surrounded by trees

In this week’s Editor’s Diary, I want to tell you about a recent encounter that happened completely by chance.

Last Sunday, as the Queen’s cortege set off from Balmoral Castle on its journey to Edinburgh, I headed for the hills.

I take the same walking route almost every Sunday. It’s a steep climb up the single track road behind my house that leads to a small loch.

It takes around an hour and a half, there and back, and it’s beautiful whatever the weather.

After about half a mile or so of steep climbing, there’s a bench that looks out over an amazing view. I always stop there for a moment to enjoy it – and catch my breath.

Best view in Fife

On Sunday, I was joined there by a cyclist who’d just laboured up the hill with a bike laden with camping gear.

“Amazing view,” he said.

“Best in Fife!” I agreed.

He said he was trying to get his bearings, as he wasn’t local. He was cycling from his home in Aberdeen to Edinburgh and had come that morning from Dundee.

He’d struggled to find a place to stay in the city and had been glad of his tent.

The reason, of course, was that Dundee’s hotels were full of people wishing to pay their respects as the cortege passed through on Sunday morning.

As we spoke, I could hear the hum of helicopters on the other side of the Tay, obviously patrolling the route the hearse would take.

“It’s funny to think I was at Balmoral just last week,” the cyclist said.

Life at Balmoral

He explained that he was a tanker driver and regularly delivered fuel to the castle. But before that, he had been a soldier – and a member of the Royal Guard at Balmoral for 10 years.

His duties had included leading the Highland ponies off the hills after a shooting party.

And, he said, one of his favourite memories was of preparing for the annual Ghillies’ Ball, which he had attended.

Every year, the Queen hosted this party, and a select number of soldiers were chosen to attend. Her Majesty was a keen Scottish country dancer, and the soldiers were expected to know their stuff.

The cyclist told of all the practice sessions beforehand, with members of the Guard rehearsing their best Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeants.

It was an amazing and unexpected insight into life at Balmoral, and I felt very privileged to hear it.

Rest break over, the cyclist prepared to leave.

“You know, I’ve never even told my mum some of those stories,” he said as he picked up his bike.

“You should!” I urged him.

I watched as he rode off into the distance and wondered at how shared events have the power to bring complete strangers together. My day felt that little bit brighter for having made that connection.

Read Angela’s previous Editor’s Diary entries

Read more of our tributes to the Queen from this week.

Angela Gilchrist

Angela is Former Editor-in-Chief of “The People’s Friend” magazine. Her passions include cats, Highland ponies, good books, vegetarian food and long walks in the Scottish countryside. Her favourite place to get away from it all is the magical Isle of Skye.