Tributes to Queen of the Red Coats
ONE of Exeter's first Red Coat Guides, who was renowned for her depiction of Queen Elizabeth for the Exeter Pageants, has died.
A photograph of Lorna Till in fantastic and ornate Elizabethan dress, taken on the roof of Mol's Coffee House overlooking Exeter Cathedral, became the definitive image of the famed pageants.
In 1987 Lorna was interviewed by Peter Thomas, the city's tourism promotions officer, as part of the first allocation of Exeter City tourist guides under the Exeter Guided Tours service of the city council.
After being accepted for training and completing a six-month course she became an exemplary Red Coat Guide.
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The requirements as a voluntary guide were stringent, as the person was to represent the city. No official guiding service had ever been operated in the city before, and its success was to be of paramount importance to assisting with underpinning of the local economy.
Lorna undertook her training with gusto, having an interest in history and buildings, and on completing her assessment received her Red Coat blazer and joined other trainees in Exeter's Guildhall in the presence of the mayor.
Mr Thomas said: "She was naturally curious about history and became a great researcher. She greatly assisted with the development of numerous new guided tours over the years.
"At all times she was dedicated to accuracy in relating information to the public, and she became a great ambassador of Exeter, together with many other guides.
"The quality of guiding and the services offered were often envied by other towns and cities, who sometimes came to see how it was done, and Lorna was always to forefront to offer help.
"As a city guide she became well known and a familiar figure around the city.
"In particular she became involved with helping to promote St Nicholas Priory and latterly 21 The Mint.
"Red Coat Guides were given the opportunity to assist with major events for Exeter and these were created by myself as part of my role as the tourism promotion officer for the city council. They were to be an important tool in relation to tourism promotion."
From the late 1980s to the 1990s, Exeter's heritage and history was used to put the city on the tourism map.
Its 2,000-year history was to be the key to creating major events which included the Exeter historical pageants and the Exeter Heritage Weekend, both of which were supported by the Red Coat Guides. The Exeter Pageants was created incorporating a whole range of historical characters relating to Exeter. It was here that Lorna took on a major role as Elizabeth I, the Queen who bestowed the motto Semper Fidelis (Ever Faithful) on the city.
Mr Thomas said: "For her character Lorna wore two costumes during 1996 and 1997. The latter was a spectacular dress with drop pearls and an enormous high back collar. Thousands lined the streets to watch a procession of more than 500 people portraying the city's history with Elizabeth I as a lead character.
"To promote the pageant I took Lorna to one of Exeter's most famous buildings, the Elizabethan Mol's Coffee House, where I got permission to photograph her on the upper balcony overlooking Cathedral Close.
"It was to be a major image of the event. Lorna studied her character and portrayed it with regal elegance and accuracy, much to the delight of thousands of onlookers.
"During her time with Exeter guided tours Lorna gave extensively of her time, energy and intellect and guided hundreds of people around the city she loved and it was these characteristics that gained her much respect and appreciation."
After 2001 she supported the Exeter Buildings Trust, becoming a trustee. Mr Thomas added: "She will be sorely missed both as a guide and friend."
Her funeral was held at St Michael's Church in Sidmouth on Friday, March 8.