A flyover, 14 bands and more than 70 floats helped Sheffield celebrate in style the 400th anniversary of when Mary Queen of Scots arrived in the city

The arrival of the Scottish Queen, who was held in Sheffield for 14 years as Elizabeth I thought her Catholic cousin would stir up rebellion in the newly protestant England, is an event which is not just an important part of local history, but national history as well and such a milestone has been celebrated greatly over the years.

Author J Keith Cheetham was at the 400th anniversary celebrations, in November 1970, where people lined the streets and jet planes flew over the crowds, remembers how much the community came together for the occasion.

The now 83-year-old, who was a member of Sheffield Junior Chamber of Commerce, was asked by Sheffield City Council to help organise something to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots into Sheffield Castle.

He said: “That year, when there was more prosperity, we had the biggest and best of the parades, headed by a flight of Lightning Jet aircraft over the city centre, fourteen bands, over 70 floats and marching contingents. Of course I had a good committee to assist with this.”

Planning started in late August 1970 after local historian informed the newly-formed Publicity Department, headed by the dynamic Peter Wigley, about the major 'Mary' anniversary - and wanted to know what were the council going to do to commemorate this.

It was then that at that time, Peter, having a very small staff, turned to the Junior Chamber to see if they could arrange anything but on a small budget.

Mr Cheetham who had previously been chairman on the Sheffield Lord Mayor's Parade, which was always organised by the Junior Chamber, pulled together his committee from the previous parade.

In the space of ten weeks the Junior Chamber created an imaginative programme, headed by a re-enactment of Queen Mary's ride from Chatsworth to Sheffield on the exact 400th anniversary day.

Mr Cheetham, who now lives in Wolverhampton, said: “After delving through history books about Queen Mary in Sheffield Archives, we traced her journey from Chatsworth and over the moors and down into the Sheaf Valley towards Sheffield.

"However, there were only a few fragments left of the Castle and so, after the Duke of Devonshire had agreed to give an official send-off, I spoke with the Chief Constable of Sheffield, Edward Barker, to seek permission, if we asked the Hallamshire Riding Society to depict the Queen and her retinue, to journey over the Longshaw Moors and down into Sheffield via Ecclesall Road arriving at Barker's Pool. The idea was we used the City Hall as an imposing backdrop for the Lord Mayor (Ald Sydney Dyson) to receive and welcome the Queen and her retinue.”

At the time Mr Cheetham was working with James Neill Limited as an Organisation & Methods Officer. However, in 1974, Sheffield Council advertised the new post of Conference & Tourism Officer, and he applied and stayed in this role for 14 years – the same length of time Mary Queen of Scots was held in Sheffield. He used his connections in this role to market Sheffield's links with Queen Mary witha procession down Edinburgh's Royal Mile and also through Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

He said: "Yes, it was cheeky - but that's how we grabbed the media attention and with it attracting many more visitors to our city.

Despite moving away to run a tourism unit for the black country the pull of Queen Mary never left Mr Cheetham and in 1998 he was elected the first chairman of the English branch of the Marie Stuart Society. At the same time, a publisher, Luath Press Ltd., on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, at the suggestion of the Scottish Tourist Board invited him to write a new book for the tourist industry on 'Mary Queen of Scots which he describes as both an easy-read history and a guide to many of the sites in her life in Scotland, France and England.

He added: "The Friends of Sheffield Manor were hoping to re-enact the Queen's ride from Chatsworth again this year, but, apart from major traffic problems on the original route we used, the timing of the coronavirus has put the idea quite out of the question.”

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