Hundreds gather at events across Northern Ireland to watch Queen’s funeral

·3-min read
Members of the public look at flowers and wreaths left in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of the public look at flowers and wreaths left in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

Hundreds of people have gathered across Northern Ireland to watch the Queen’s funeral.

The grounds of Belfast City Hall drew one of the largest crowds, as people congregated on the lawns outside the landmark building to watch the service on big screens.

Many sat on blankets or in foldable chairs, while others chose to stand.

The gathering was diverse, with military veterans wearing medals and young children among those in the crowd.

I wanted to come to Hillsborough today to show my respects, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Joy Rodgers, Lisburn

A reverent silence pervaded throughout the proceedings, with some weeping quietly as the service drew to a close and God Save The King was played.

About 200 people watched the funeral live on the front lawn at St Malachy’s Church in Hillsborough, with several dozen gathering outside the gates of Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland’s royal residence.

Several other cities and towns across the region installed big screens to enable people to come together to watch the service.

Simon Freedman, 51, from Coleraine, got the train to Belfast to attend the event at City Hall on Monday morning.

It was a gesture in part dedicated to the memory of his own mother, Olive Sarah Freedman, who was a big royal fan and died in 2020 from Covid-19 at the age of 79.

“The fact we couldn’t have a service because of the lockdown in 2020, today kind of did that as well for me,” Mr Freedman said.

“(My mother’s) favourite hymn was the Lord Is My Shepherd, so it was quite fitting.

“I knew when that hymn came on I’d shed a tear.”

Joy Rodgers, from Lisburn, attended at Hillsborough in Co Down to watch the funeral service with her daughter-in-law who is originally from New Zealand.

“When I was young I remember the Queen coming to Lisburn,” said Ms Rodgers.

“I wanted to come to Hillsborough today to show my respects, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“The Queen was 96 and I suppose it was her time but it is a big challenge now for Charles.”

In addition to the big screen gatherings, there was also plenty of community based get-togethers.

One took place at Christ Church Presbyterian Church in Dundonald on the outskirts of Belfast.

The church showed the funeral for members of its congregation.

Copies of the order of service were handed out on arrival with tea and biscuits also offered to those who came together to watch the historic event.

Church minister Reverend Richard McIlhatton said there was a real sense of loss within the local community.

“It’s an opportunity to gather because some people would feel quite isolated and alone in their own homes,” he said.

“To come together and be part of something bigger – we wanted to give people an opportunity to be part of that.”

Hundreds of foreign dignitaries and charity representatives are among those who joined the royal family in the abbey for the service.

Peter Sheridan, of Co-operation Ireland, which is among the charities the late Queen was a patron of, said he was honoured to attend the funeral and reflected on the Queen’s “gestures of healing”.