By Ian McInnes

Queen Mary’s regular annual visits to admire the rhododendrons in Dulwich Park’s American Garden between the late 1920s and her death in 1953 are commemorated in the name of the gates leading from the park onto Dulwich Common. Just recently we were contacted by a former resident who, as a five - year - old girl, had been lucky enough to go around the park with Queen Mary in her car. Sonia Elkin was born in Camden House in the centre of Dulwich Village - the house was bombed in the War and no longer exists. Her father was a solicitor and, as was common in professional middle - class homes at the time, he employed a nanny to look after her. Sonia used to be taken to Dulwich Park to meet up with other nannies and their charges and it was on one such afternoon that Queen Mary’s car stopped next to them and the chauffeur asked whether the two girls would like to come for a ride. Sonia had no idea who the Queen was but she does remember how the nannies curtsied and were very deferential when the Queen spoke to them. Of the ride she remembers nothing but the chauffer’s uniform and his gaiters.

And then, early in April, the LHG secretary, Sharon O’Connor, met a West Dulwich resident who had also met Queen Mary in the Park - this time just after VE Day on 8th May 1945. Francis Tahaney was about three years old but vividly remembers the queen’s turquoise gown and her toque. He says he can still picture a tall lady bending down to talk to him. His mother was nearby and asked him what Queen Mary said but he couldn’t remember!