Derby city centre landlord tells of six-hour wait to see Queen's coffin

Steve Kirk at the Neptune Pub, in Derby Credit: BPM Media

The landlord of patriotic Derby pub the Neptune has told of what it was like queuing for the Queen's lying-in-state.

Steve Kirk caught the 5.30am train to London on Thursday morning to say his final goodbyes to Her Majesty.

Initially, he'd planned to go to London for her funeral. But with a day of mourning planned in the pub on Monday, he thought it'd be better to pay his respects this way.

"All of the revellers said they wanted me there on Monday. We're a family, so it makes sense. We cry together. But I knew I had to do something."

The Neptune, in Derby Credit: BPM Media

A royalist since childhood, Steve closed the Neptune last Thursday as soon as the news broke of the Queen’s death. It remained closed on Friday and reopened on Saturday, September 10.

It was the first time he'd ever shut the pub voluntarily in his 25 years of ownership. He spoke of how hard the announcement of her death hit him.

“I really suffered. I had loads of people phoning me up asking me how I was cause they knew it’d hit me. But it still surprised me how much it did.

“It’s probably the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime. It’s on a par with losing my mum and dad. It’s just knocked me for six.

“People said: ‘You didn’t shut for your dad or your mum’s passing.’

“But that only affected me. The Queen’s death affected everyone. She was almost like family to me. Since I was born, she’s been there. I might sound like an old fool, but I just loved her to bits.”

Steve and his brother Martin got to the back of the queue at 7.30am, and ended up waiting for six hours. It was "testing" by the end, but well worth it, he says.

Steve Kirk is landlord of the Neptune, in Derby Credit: BPM Media

"It wasn't too bad at the start. By the river, the wall was quite low, so you could sit or lean on it and watch the boats go by and the people.

"It went really quickly at the start, and we thought we were going to be in soon after. But then it got to the bit that snakes back and forth, like an airport queue.

"That was the worst bit. You see it on telly and it looks like it's moving quite quickly, but it's not. That bit alone took more than three hours, and was probably about 2 or 3 miles long if you put it end to end. It was testing.

"My back was killing, but it was well worth the effort. I'd strongly recommend it to anyone who's thinking about it. The queues might be a bit longer now but definitely, go down."

The atmosphere in the queue was partly what kept the pair going throughout. They'd not brought any food or drink with them for fear of needing the toilet during the long wait.

"It was emotional when we joined the queue because we thought: 'this is it now, this is where we say our final farewell'.

"But then when we got going in the queue, the camaraderie was amazing. Everyone was chatting away and laughing.

"It changed a bit when we got nearer. It quietened down."

Soon enough, they reached Westminster Hall.

"It was emotional when we got there. The atmosphere - you could almost reach out and grab it. The only thing that broke the silence was people crying. It was so moving.

"When I first saw the coffin I got a bit emotional. We were in there for about ten minutes as they changed the guard, so I had a bit of time to get myself together.

"But it was such a powerful feeling.

"I bowed my head and said thank you. She's been a big part of my life. She's been amazing to the country and the world."

The pair were back in Derby for 4.30pm after catching a 3pm train.

He said: "It was an amazing day from start to finish. Everyone was likeminded. Emotions. Laughter. I don't whether my body could manage it again today but it was worth it.

"A strange day, but a lovely one."