I’m almost an official member of the Ladies Probus, after attending three meetings, so I was more than welcome to attend the Christmas Lunch celebrations. (I understand that I will be officially inducted at the first meeting in the New Year). We had a short meeting, and our speaker was former Beefeater, Patrick Nolan. He kept us entertained as he told us told us how a colonial boy from Marton became a Beefeater in the Tower of London. Patrick joined the army at the tender age of 15, and had a long career, serving in Vietman and other overseas postings. On a trip to the UK, Patrick and his wife took a tour around the Tower of London. Listening the the Beefeater talk to his tour group, Patrick decided that was the job for him. Some years later after a lot of correspondence to and fro, he was accepted as a probationer, buddied with a mentor, and the intensive training started.
The Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, and Members of the Sovereign's Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary, popularly known as the Beefeaters, are ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In principle they are responsible for looking after any prisoners in the Tower and safeguarding the British crown jewels, but in practice they act as tour guides and are a tourist attraction in their own right, working 7 days on and 2 days off. The very first yeoman was appointed way back on 15th August 1100.
After completing his training and learning the stories word for word, Patrick was finally ready to be let loose on the paying public. He was sworn in at St James Palace, becoming Yeoman number 351, and worked for 16 years on the job.
The beautiful ceremonial red State Dress uniform is worn on special occasions. The embroidery was done at the Royal College of Needleworkers who use silk thread wrapped with 24 ct gold thread, and the outfit costs upwards of a whopping 13,000 pounds. It is worn with red tights, red breeches, rosettes, a white pleated neck ruff, and topped with a black hat.
I sweet talked Patrick into coming over to our table and having his photo taken with us. In fact, he didn’t take too much persuading at all.
After all that excitement it was time to move into the restaurant for our lunch. The tables were beautifully decorated, and the food was great - hot ham, chicken and plenty of vegetables. And for dessert there was a choice of pavlova and fruit salad, or Christmas pudding and custard. I’m a Chrissie pudding sort of girl, so it was an easy choice for me.
A cup of coffee and a slice of Christmas cake later, we were full to the brim. It was a very enjoyable day indeed.