Express & Star

Teenage photographer captured young Queen's visit to Dudley

For young Graham Gough, it seemed like the job of a lifetime. Barely out of school, the 17-year-old trainee press photographer had been given his most exciting assignment yet, photographing the Queen's visit to his home town.

The crowds in Coronation Gardens during the Queen's visit

In 1957 the Queen ­– who herself was still fairly new to the job – decided to spend St George's Day in Dudley.

The occasion, two days after Her Majesty's 31st birthday, would be the first of many brushes with royalty for Graham, who worked at the Express & Star's Dudley office until his retirement in 2001.

"Royalty has always been a big part of a press photographer's itinerary, and I have photographed most of the Royal Family over the years," he says.

Nevertheless, it was the 1957 visit which was always the most memorable.

"My task for the day was first to take pictures of the waiting crowds, my second the arrival of the Queen, and then dashing onto the roof of the council house for a general view.

"Then finally, I had to leg it back to the darkroom and develop and print my pictures."

It was a daunting task for someone so young, but Graham lapped it up and revelled in the excitement.

The Queen arrives in Dudley in 1957

"As a teenager I felt rather important as I wandered around taking pictures of the friendly Dudley folk who were all in good spirits and happy to have their pictures taken and joined in the fun of the occasion," says Graham, now 82.

"One little lad asked me if I could get the Queen's autograph for him, I declined and pointed out that she might be a little too busy."

Long before the age of digital cameras, Graham took his pictures on glass plates which had to be developed back in the newsroom.

"Unlike today you never knew if your pictures were any good until they had been processed," he says.

"With only 12 exposures to use, picking and choosing your shots was vital.

"The fear of using them all up and then something dramatic happening was one of my main concerns, fortunately all went well on this occasion."

Children in Dudley getting ready for the Queen 's visit

According to the Express & Star, well-wishers travelled in cars and coaches from miles around to catch a glimpse of the monarch on the steps of the Council House at lunchtime.

Earlier in the day, the Queen arrived at Hagley Railway Station, before being driven to Halesowen, where she visited the Walter Somers works.

There were short visits to Oldbury Council House and Rowley Regis, before the royal party arrived in Dudley town centre at 12.55pm, where they were greeted with 5,000 children, large crowds of pensioners, and specially invited guests who gave the Queen “a deafening welcome”.

The Queen took a path between the vast crowds to the Apollo statue in Coronation Gardens, where she was greeted by 10-year-old Joy Roberts, and nine-year-old Kathleen Wassell and Susan Mullet, who presented her with a bouquet. She waved to the crowds from the balcony of the Council House, and told mayor Councillor Sam Danks: “It’s been a wonderful pleasure to come here”.

She then visited the Stevens & Williams glassworks in Brierley Hill before being taken on a tour of Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge in an open-topped Land-Rover. She ended the visit in Kidderminster.

Graham, who lives in Kinver, later photographed Her Majesty during a review of the Home Fleet in Torbay in 1969, aboard HMS Eagle and the royal yacht Britannia.

He also pictured her in 1984 with US President Ronald Reagan during the commemoration to mark the 40th anniversary of D-Day on Omaha Beach in Normandy.

"All in all it was very exciting for my younger self and it has been a privilege over the years to see our wonderful monarch at close quarters and she has never failed to impress," he says.