Leader of South Kesteven District Council Linda Neal was inside St Paul’s Cathedral on Wednesday for the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher.
Coun Neal was invited as a representative of Lady Thatcher’s home town along with Mayor of Grantham Ian Stokes.
Coun Neal spoke to the Journal yesterday about the moving and unforgettable occasion.
What was your reaction to receiving the invite?
I was surprised and shocked. It’s not something I thought about or expected.
Do you think it was a nice gesture to have a Grantham representative?
I definitely think it was a nice gesture. It recognises her roots. For as long as I can remember I have had close links to Grantham. My father was born and brought up in a village just outside Grantham. Although I now live in Bourne, as a family we have always looked to Grantham and we have family in Grantham, too.
How did your day begin?
My ticket had not arrived by the morning but I’d been given instructions in case that happened. Although it did create a bit of uncertainty about how difficult it would be to get in. But we arrived at St Paul’s tube station and everything was extremely well organised. We had airport-style security to go through but we got there in plenty of time so instead of going to the cathedral straight away we took some time on top of the steps to take in the atmosphere. The one thing that struck me was that, although there were thousands of people around, it was actually really, really quiet and quite somber.
And inside the cathedral...
It was absolutely beautiful inside and buzzing with people from all walks of life. The seating was in coloured blocks and I was in the blue block. I was sat close to the choir and when their voice struck up it was absolutely magnificent.
Will that be the your abiding memory of the day?
There is one other moment that sticks out in my mind. Being inside the cathedral, you missed a lot of what was going on in the street, although there were TV screens. But when the coffin was taken outside following the funeral there was a huge cheer that came rushing in through the Great West Door. It was very moving
Do you think such a public funeral was justified?
I did find myself reflecting on how short and precious life is. We need to make the most of what we have. I found myself thinking about the people who feel bitter about her and what she achieved. If people have remained bitter over the years, they have effectively let it ruin their lives. You need to make the most of what you have got and enjoy what you can because it is so precious.
Did Margaret Thatcher inspire you to go into politics?
I don’t think she did. At the time I was not a member of the Conservative party. I never had a strong drive to be in politics and during her time as Prime Minister it never crossed my mind to be a local government councillor, never mind the leader of the council that looks after the very town in which she was born and brought up.