The Olympic flame brings a late but unsurpassed moment to Marlborough
Twenty-five minutes late it may have been, but the Olympic torch finally blazed its way through Marlborough at 11.45 this morning.
And its eternal flame exploded welcome feelings of emotion from the waiting thousands, estimated at more than 5,000, who packed the pavements, thronged balconies and windows overlooking the High Street, one even spotted on a rooftop.
They stood on ladders to see the once in a lifetime occasion, market traders sitting atop their vans to ensure a perfect view as the flame “kissed” outside Lloyds Bank. BBC television filmed the whole event from the balcony of the town hall.
Then 22-year-old modern pentathlete Freyja Prentice, from Bath raced it on past the cheering throng and Marlborough’s elegant new mayor Edwina Fogg standing on the town hall steps in all her robes for an historic occasion.
“Words fail me at this moment because everything has simply surpassed all my expectations,” she told Marlborough News Online in an exclusive interview.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful start to my mayoral year, really fantastic, incredible and amazing. Absolutely thrilling too. And the sun shone in a blue sky making it such a beautiful day.”
She admired the town hall, bedecked with bunting and flags, and praised the efforts made to create a welcome atmosphere for the torchbearers in the High Street, and enjoyed the company of special guests, among them Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council.
Retailer members of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce decorated their stores with red, white and blue hanging baskets while others filled their windows with a variety of red, white and blue displays and decorated their shops with Union Jack bunting.
“Even when it was announced that the torch was delayed on its way from Calne people said, ‘Oh no!’ but were still so thrilled not to miss it.”
And much to the mayor’s surprise as she stood alongside robed council colleagues and bewigged town clerk Derek Wolfe was that she had a request from someone in the crowd for a photo opportunity.
“Then came more requests, which I simply couldn’t refuse,” said the mayor. “There were lots of babies, lots of schoolchildren, lots of people who know me. And it was all so spontaneous.
“We had visitors too from Australia and one from Marlborough, New Zealand, who you mentioned on Marlborough News Online, an advance guard for the party of eight who are coming here for the Barbury Castle beacon event and barbecue.”
The big buzz of expectation had begun at 10am when colourful Olympic sails went up in the High Street, traffic piled in and young and old started staking themselves a place to see the torchbearers cover the stretch from the College Fields up the hill past Marlborough Golf Club.
St John’s School allowed 1,000 pupils, gathered outside the library, to ensure a rapturous reception for the flame runners, initially Eddie Jenkinson, 52, from Royal Wootton Bassett, then 59-year-old Swindon schoolteacher Iain Perkins followed by Sue O’Connell, 47, also from Swindon and then dashing Jo Cook.
Seventy police marshalled the crowds, which also included pupils from primary schools St Peter’s, St Mary’s and Preshute plus other groups whose enthusiasm waving their flags created its own electric effect.
“I’ve waited here for three hours,” said one woman as the sun beat down. “And it was all over in three seconds. A marvellous moment.”
Indeed, it was a magic moment for the town of Marlborough, whose charter creating the borough was granted by King John in 1204, the date of its first elected mayor.
And that magic comes too from William the Conqueror whose wooden motte and bailey castle was sited on a prehistoric mound said to be burial place of Merlin, from whose name Marlborough has evolved over the centuries.
Today, history old and new combined to give us a new magical chapter, to relish and remember for all time.
Praise for the Olympic torch day event came today (Thursday) from Sergeant Vincent Logue, who is in charge of the Marlborough police team.
In an email to the Mayor, he said: “What a cracking day for Marlborough. As expected, your citizens behaved impeccably and showed off the town in an extremely positive light.
“The school children in particular were a credit to the town. I hope you were happy with the local police's attendance.”