Carnival Queen Mavis had a day to remember

Mavis safely on the ground after her helicopter ride.
Mavis safely on the ground after her helicopter ride.
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They certainly knew how to hold a festival in Sunderland in the 1960s.

Who remembers the celebrations of 50 years ago when a community festival meant singing from the Monkwearmouth Ladies Choir, and Scottish dancing from members of the Thompson Park Community Association?

A May procession under an instantly recognisable landmark.

A May procession under an instantly recognisable landmark.

Were you possibly one of the hundreds of children who gathered to watch as girls of the East Community Association’s children’s team, dressed in colourful costumes, danced around the maypole?

Or were you one of the people enjoying the entertainment at the Central Development Area? If so, get in touch and tell us more about those great days.

For one very important guest, it certainly was a day to remember.

The date was May 28, 1962. Mavis Whitfield, 21, was the May Queen that year, and got to travel in five different forms of transport in the space of an hour, as reported in the Sunderland Echo.

But as our reporter explained, the weather made it an interesting day of highlights because it was so windy – and Mavis’s first trip was a helicopter ride.

What started out with a delicate beach landing, then continued with a Rolls Royce journey, a trip across the River Wear on a launch, another Rolls Royce ride, a brief trip in a vintage 1903 car and finally a procession on the back of a brewer’s dray – and that’s not including her journey home at the end of it all.

Mavis was there to mark Sunderland Community Festival Week and she certainly got the VIP treatment as the incoming May Queen.

Her first trip started in high winds when she was transported by helicopter to Roker where an audience awaited.

Beneath her were dozens of onlookers gathered on the sands to watch her arrival - while trying to shield themselves from clouds of sand.

The pilot of the helicopter was a Mr Clifford Gill from Luton who later admitted the challenging weather conditions had made the landing “a little tricky but somehow we managed to get down.”

But Mavis, from Seaham, was safely on the ground and ready to continue her big day.

From the helicopter, she was driven in a Rolls Royce to Sunderland Boat Club where a Sea Cadet launch took her across the river to Corporation Quay.

She was dressed in her golden ensemble and then climbed back into a gold and black Rolls Royce for a short run to the main road, where a 1903 vintage De Dion Bouton car was waiting to take her to the Town Hall – with her very own police escort.

One she arrived at the town hall, she was received by the Mayor, Alderman R.T. Watson, and they then enjoyed a ceremony presided over by Mr W Urquhart, the chairman of the Community Festival Committee.

But Mavis’s day wasn’t over. Next, as the community festival crowds continued to grow, she got to watch some of the excellent moves of the East Community Association’s children’s team dancers.

And she did it while she was invited to relax in a giant chair on a platform, before the Mayor performed her crowning ceremony.

And to keep up her day to remember, she had another journey to enjoy soon after.

This time, she and her May Queen attendants, were given a ride on a brewer’s dray.

They were transported back across town to join the main procession of the community festival which was winding its way around the streets of Sunderland.

It was a jam-packed schedule for the 21-year-old, but the Echo’s report at the time described it as “thrilling”.

The eventful schedule for the newly crowned May Queen came to an end with a dance at the Hylton Castle Community Association, after which she returned to her home in Seaham.

And as our report said at the time: “She returned to tell her relations and friends of the day’s events.”

Did you take part in community celebrations in Sunderland and do you have photographs to remember it all.

Contact chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk