WEARSIDE gardener Bob Wilson has sown the seeds for a Royal meeting – and a family reunion.
The 78-year-old has been invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace later this month, as a thank you for lavishing his time on the gardens of All Saints Church at Monkwearmouth.
But, as well as meeting the Queen, Fulwell man Bob will also be able to catch up with his 27-year-old grandson Richard Stringfellow – who is playing for guests with the Blues and Royals regiment.
“It is a real coincidence Richard is going to be there,” said Bob. “It will be lovely to see him ‘at work,’ so to speak, and we will also be staying with him while we are in London.
“As a musician with the Blues and Royals, Richard plays quite regularly at Royal events, such as Trooping the Colour. It will be our first time at something like this though.”
Bob’s family ties to All Saints Church date back two generations before his birth, when his grandfather was a ploughman in Fulwell.
“He had six sons and a daughter and they all attended All Saints,” said Bob. “In fact, one of my father’s brothers, Robert Wilson, served as vicar there from 1930 to 1940.”
Bob himself attended All Saints as a young lad. He was evacuated, however, when war broke out and, after returning four years later, found most of his friends were members of St Andrew’s.
“I joined All Saints choir once the war was over, which I enjoyed,” said Bob. “We had strong family ties to the church, but with most of my friends at St Andrew’s, I just wanted to change.
“I ended up getting confirmed at St Andrew’s when I was 14 and have stayed there ever since. Over the years I have served as a church warden and bell-ringer, as well as volunteer gardener.”
It is almost 50 years since Bob, a retired local authority gardener, started looking after the grounds around St Andrew’s – a task he combines with his work at All Saints.
“It all started back in 1962, when the verger took poorly and I volunteered to do the gardens. I have been looking after them ever since,” said Bob, of Ashleigh Grove.
“But it is for my work at All Saints, which I started 10 years ago, that I was nominated for an invitation to the garden party at Buckingham Palace. I feel very honoured to have been asked.
“My work at the church began when a strip of land was sold for housing.
“The church wardens wanted to tidy up the rest of the garden and I went along to help – and just stayed.
“Although I am no longer a member, I still have very close ties to the church and visit almost every week. I cut the grass, keep the gardens tidy and just generally help out. I enjoy it.”
The garden party nomination for Bob was made by one of the regular All Saints worshippers, who wanted the kind-hearted gardener to receive an official thank you for his work.
“I’m really looking forward to the party,” said Bob, who will be taking his wife Pat as his guest.
“I’m thrilled to bits to have been asked and really appreciate being nominated in the first place.
“I saw the Queen once, when she visited Mowbray Park and I’ve also been on a tourist tour of Buckingham Palace, but I’ve never been invited to the palace to see her before. It’s very exciting.”
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