Former queen to help schoolgirl in new role

Mary Benn and Anna Sperring
Mary Benn and Anna Sperring

There might be 67 years between them but there’s one thing Mary Benn and Anna Sperring have in common - being a Rose Queen.

Anna, 12, from Garstang, will take on the role of Rose Queen for St Thomas’s Church on Saturday and will have Mary on hand to give her any special tips.

Mary, 79, was Centenary Queen for the church in 1949.

This year marks the 165th anniversary of the church’s Rose Queen - which will be celebrated this weekend.

Anna will be crowned at the church’s annual summer fair, which aims to raise funds for the church.

As well as popular cake, flower and tombola stalls this year’s summer fair includes a pet show and a special magic show for children.

Mary said: “I have many happy memories of being Rose Queen. It was a wonderful day and a wonderful year. I was lucky to be chosen and I was so proud to represent St Thomas’s.

“It’s fantastic that the tradition is still going strong today when so much else has changed since then.”

Mary, who now lives in Conder Green near Lancaster, was 15 when she served as the queen.

She attended St Thomas’s Primary School and then went on to Greaves School in Lancaster.

When she left school she went on to work in her father’s grocery shop Barlett’s in Garstang.

Mary later married and had two sons and now has four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

She added: “Anna will really enjoy her day and also her year representing the church.”

Anna added: “I have wanted to be the Rose Queen since I was in the retinue when I was just six years old.

“I am looking forward to being crowned Rose Queen in July which will be just before my 13th birthday.

“My retinue’s pretty dresses are all being made and I cannot wait to see them.”

Anna continued: “I am also looking forward to attending and representing St Thomas’s at the various village galas and parades including Garstang, Catterall, St Michaels, Churchtown and Calder Vale.”

St Thomas’s first Rose Queen was 1848 and the centenary was celebrated during 1948/49.