Cherie Blair herds goats for Widows' Day

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A Slice Of Britain: Celebrities were meant to be up front, but it's a six-year-old Toggenburg called Dotty who leads the way

London Bridge

Cherie Blair is having problems with a goat. "I'm going to call her She Who Must Be Obeyed, because she's certainly not obeying me," she says, as a grumpy brown Nubian with a lumpen head and an underbite wraps its lead around her legs and refuses to budge.

In fact, her new friend is male – a seven-year-old billy goat, named, er, Billy. He is one of 23 of the beasts being herded by celebrities across London Bridge to mark International Widows' Day, the UN's annual global day of action to address the poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents across the world.

"I hadn't realised they were so strong," admits Mrs Blair. "I'm from Liverpool; we don't have any goats."

The procession has been organised by the Loomba Foundation, the widows' charity of which Mrs Blair is president. As freemen of the City of London, she and Lord Loomba are exercising their ancient right to herd livestock over the landmark bridge, which spans the Thames from Borough to Monument.

The halting procession makes its way towards Monument in a fenced-off bus lane. Only one a day after the chaos of a bus strike in the capital, Londoners, if they had been allowed to get near, might have been forgiven for thinking that the parade of farm yard animals was their replacement service. Fortunately, the public was kept at arm's length, on the other side of the bridge.

The Billy Goats Gruff have little to fear from trolls blocking their crossing, but someone is blocking the way at the end. A protester muscles in at the last minute carrying a banner saying "Spot the Irony: Blair Kills Husbands".

Bundled off before she is noticed by Mrs Blair, Rose Wynes-Devlin, 53, a mother of five from south London, says: "I'm a widow and I'm insulted that Cherie Blair is the president of a widows' charity. I lost my husband 13 years ago due to health reasons, but I know what it is for a child to grow up without a father, which is why I'm antiwar."

The bedraggled parade, completely soaked by the incessant rain, is to have been led by celebrities including Mrs Blair, Cilla Black, Nancy Dell'Olio and the television presenter Floella Benjamin. In reality it is led by their goats, who try valiantly to trip up their herders by weaving in between them on long leads.

Also at the front is Lord Raj Loomba, who set up the charity to help widows in memory of his mother, Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, who was widowed at the age of 37 in India.

Commenting on the significance of the creatures, Mrs Blair says: "Goats are amazing for widows because you can use them for so many things. They can provide milk and an income to support your children."

These particular animals travelled down from Derbyshire and are far more interested in a bucket of barley than in the gathered dignitaries.

A six-year-old Toggenburg called Dotty is the star chosen to lead the procession. Floella Benjamin gives Dotty a tentative stroke, saying: "I like goats." Thankfully her reasons were delivered out of earshot of Dotty: "I'm from the Caribbean and there's nothing better than curried goat."

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, the wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, had also been expected, but perhaps decided that goat herding in the pouring rain was not her thing. The Cleggs later hosted a reception for the charity at No 10.

As the procession makes it to a pen on the other side of the bridge, Billy picks up the pace and starts straining at the lead in Mrs Blair's hand. "I think the goats have decided they've had enough," she says, handing the lead to its owner with a look of considerable relief.

Suggested Topics
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Goalkeeping howler allows Man City to scrap a draw – but Premier League title is Liverpool's to lose
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
scienceTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal