An unforgettable day that touched all our lives

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The Independent Online

Where were YOU 50 years ago on Coronation Day? We rang round all the people we could think of to ask them that question, and here are their answers.

Lord Abergask

"Well, I wasn't born until 1960, so you must be thinking of my father, the seventh Lord Abergask. He was alive then. Unfortunately, he isn't alive now. Sorry."

Benno Medici, retired terrorist

"I was on a rooftop overlooking Westminster Abbey. I had a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights and silencer, and I was perched behind a chimney stack with a very good view of where the Queen was to walk into the Abbey. My mission? To assassinate her."

George Wetherby, ex-mountaineer

"I was climbing Mount Everest. We were all gathered round a small radio, listening to the Coronation live. Our instructions were not to get to the top of Everest before the Queen was crowned, so as not to steal her thunder. So, we all wanted her to get on with it."

Mrs Tarkington, housewife

"I was a schoolgirl. There's a legend that we all got the day off from school for the Coronation, but we didn't. We had to go to school and watch it on the TV. The school TV was the only television in the town. I was afraid of going, because my father was Communist and I was scared he was going to make a protest."

Lord Abergask

"You could talk to my mother, the dowager Lady Abergask. She is still alive. I'll get her. Hang on."

Benno Medici

"The only contact I had with my control was via a walkie-talkie. Ten minutes before the Queen arrived I received a call saying the whole thing was off, and I should come down. It quite spoilt the day for me."

George Wetherby

"You might think that going up Everest is slow but coronations are a lot slower. We could have been up to the top and down again, the time they took. Then a rumour went round that a Swiss team was going to get to the top while we were waiting for the Coronation ceremony to end!"

Mrs Tarkington

"Well, even though he was a Communist, my father agreed to come along, and it was just as well he did because he was a trained radio and TV mechanic and the TV broke down! He told me later it was one of the most agonising decisions of his life. Should he do his job and mend it? Or should he follow his principles and bugger up the Coronation?"

Lady Abergask

"Hello? Lady Abergask here. The Coronation? All I remember is my husband getting dressed in his robes and saying he was going off to the Abbey to see the Queen. I stayed at home and did some gardening. He came back much later. I asked him what it had been like. He said he didn't know. He had slept through the whole thing. Is that any help?"

Benno Medici

"It turned out that the police had found my control and had forced him at gunpoint to tell me the assassination was off. They caught him but I got away. I went into war journalism after that and knocked around Africa. I met Frederick Forsyth out there. I told him one drunken night about my experience. He made a fortune out of it."

George Wetherby

"We couldn't take any risks with the Swiss. They've got an unfair advantage being a republic; they never have to stop for royal holidays or birthdays or anything. So we switched off the radio and made a dash for the top. Got there, too. Had a good laugh with the Swiss about it afterwards in the bar."

Lady Abergask

"I remember the abdication much better. Would that be any use?"

Benno Medici

"If they ever find a thermos on a rooftop near the Abbey, it's mine."

George Wetherby

"It turned out later that as our men on Everest were a New Zealander and a Nepalese, the British hadn't really climbed Everest at all. The Swiss had a good laugh with us about that, I can tell you."

Mrs Tarkington

"So he followed up his principles and messed up the TV and the Coronation. Sadly, after that, nobody ever hired him as a TV mechanic. So he had to retrain as a bus driver. He never forgave the Queen for that."

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