Rose Queen, 1963
Rose Queen Festivals had once been a common sight each year at the Royal Oak and Baguley Residents Association – better known as Royal Oak Community Centre – in the heart of Baguley, Greater Manchester. Very little is known or remembered about the Royal Oak Rose Queens with only a few old photographs of starry-eyed young women posed for the camera after having received the accolades of royalty for one special day. For the majority of these women, their lives are currently shrouded in mystery and their individual stories lost to time.
Amazingly, we were able to meet and learn about the life of Beverley Ibbotson (nee Copsey), Royal Oak Rose Queen of 1963. Born in Wythenshawe in 1949, she had what she describes as an “idyllic childhood” attending Baguley School and living with her parents and grandmother. Her grandfather had sadly contracted tuberculosis and passed away at the nearby Baguley Hospital and Sanatorium (now Wythenshawe Hospital) while she was still young.
Her father worked as an insurance office manager and her mother as a private secretary, however both were very involved with the Royal Oak Community Centre organising a prolific series of amateur dramatics productions. In fact, one of Beverley’s earliest memories was watching a dress rehearsal for a play at the Centre when she was 3 years old. She was wearing a coral necklace and then to her horror, the beads fell off all over onto the stage, forcing the rehearsal to stop so they could be picked up. Despite this early mishap, Beverley still took to the stage to play in her first pantomime production alongside her parents at 8 years old. She would carry on participating in the Royal Oak dramatics for several years creating costumes, dancing, choreographing, and supporting her community.
By early summer of 1963, it was nearing the time to celebrate yet another Rose Queen Festival and for 14-year-old Beverley, it was a very exciting time to participate. In what she describes as a type of beauty contest – “of course which are not allowed now” – with a panel of judges, Beverley and other Rose Queen contenders were asked to walk on stage and speak about the accomplishments you would aspire to achieve as Rose Queen. While some of the girls were understandably daunted by this task, Beverley’s background performing on stage gave her the confidence to be selected as Rose Queen of Royal Oak.
It was common practice for girls chosen to be Rose Queen to purchase wedding dresses for the festival. Beverley’s grandmother was a seamstress and because of Beverley’s small stature, she decided to make her granddaughter’s Rose Queen dress instead. Other girls chosen to attend the Rose Queen and join the procession would also be garbed in extravagant dresses for the occasion with the entire community turning up to watch. It was a strongly unifying event that Beverley described as “a nice thing to do”.
After receiving her crown from Miss Cheryl Driscoll (Butlin’s Holiday Princess of Great Britain, 1962 and Runner Up Miss Ireland 1963), Beverley knew she “never wanted to go into an office” so she pursued her passion for dance and began her career working with teams of professional dancers in various nightclubs around Manchester. She then decided to do choreography for other dancers including strippers, however this saucy streak seemed to slow down a little after her marriage and having children. Instead, Beverley joined the Wythenshawe Operatic Society and volunteering her choreography skills for various amateur community groups for over 50 years.
Even now, Beverley strongly advocates the importance of community spirit and taking a chance:
“…If you get an opportunity to do something, it doesn’t cost much… [I] became a dancer, which wasn’t my original plan just by sort of joining in things…It was great fun and people loved being there… Community spirit is a great thing and it’s a shame if it’s dying out… If nobody comes forward, you’re missing out on a lot.”
The Royal Oak Community Centre Volunteer Team want to extend their sincerest appreciation to Beverley Ibbotson (nee Copsey) for her amazing story and sharing with us her extensive collection of photographs from her life. The interview and resulting article were compiled and written by Rebecca Miles, Royal Oak Volunteer.
If you are or know about a former Royal Oak Rose Queen and would like to share your story with us, please get in touch with our team!