The Queen's tree-mendous gift plus a special Christmas guest!
In this season of goodwill, I thank Olwen Hughes MBE, of Stoneygate, for the following heart-warming Christmas tale.
"In 1993, the then Lord Mayor of Leicester, Henry Dunphy, set up his ambassador award scheme.
"He was looking for an assistant that had shown a commitment to the lives of others, and had made an outstanding contribution to Leicester.
"Via the Leicester Mercury, the citizens of the city were invited to vote and to my astonishment, I won. I therefore became Leicester's first lord mayor's ambassador.
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"Margaret Bell, the next lord mayor, asked me to continue in the role and, in autumn 1994, asked me to arrange a Christmas programme of events that would raise money for an x-ray machine for Leicester Royal Infirmary's accident and emergency department.
"I had to come up with something new, so I suggested we wrote to the Queen to ask if we could have a Christmas tree as the focal point of our Christmas programme.
"No one was more surprised than me when a response came saying the Queen would be pleased to support the appeal and a 22ft-high tree would be coming from Windsor Great Park.
"It was decided the tree would be placed inside the cathedral, but I thought it would be a good idea to receive it at Wycliffe Community College, Braunstone, as children from neighbouring primary schools could be present.
"On the appointed day, the tall tree arrived at 10am. I found the school's assembly hall packed with happy, excited children, waving balloons.
"The lord mayor, town crier and other dignitaries were also present.
"Shortly afterwards, the lorry, with two police motorcycle escorts, arrived. The town crier rang his bell, proudly announcing the arrival of the Queen's Christmas tree.
"Following the lorry was a shiny, blue Range Rover from which stepped a tall gentleman who seemed very important: he was the park keeper from Windsor. He announced that the Queen had chosen the tree herself for the children and people of Leicester.
"The cheers and roars of welcome were deafening and happiness reigned.
"Afterwards, the tree and dignitaries, accompanied by the police escort, left for the cathedral, where grammar school pupils were waiting to carry this precious present into the cathedral.
"Before the park keeper left for Windsor, he gave me a present of a small Christmas tree in a pot which I still have in my back garden.
"All was now ready for the week of musical events, entitled The Singing and Dancing Christmas Tree, involving large numbers of talented pupils from primary and secondary schools who performed to the delight of everyone.
"The climax was held during the afternoon of Friday, December 16, 1994, in the cathedral, and included musical recitals by school bands, orchestras and school choirs.
"All went home happy, knowing a substantial sum had been raised for the lord mayor's appeal.
"However, another special event took place during festival week. I received a request from the Walt Disney company's UK ambassador, who wanted to come to Leicester and provide a breakfast for about 80 children from special educational needs (SEN) schools.
"I thought this request was remarkable, so I approached the manager of the Grand Hotel in Granby Street, who was delighted to be involved.
"On Wednesday, December 14, 1994, two days before the Singing and Dancing Christmas Tree event in the Cathedral, 78 children from Leicester's SEN schools came for breakfast at the Grand Hotel. What a time they had!
"The Disney team decorated the breakfast room with all sorts of Disney posters and crockery: it looked stunning. The children were enthralled, as were the adults.
"After breakfast, the Disney ambassador asked who the children would like to see: "Mickey Mouse" was the universal response.
"Everyone was stunned when Mickey appeared, followed by Minnie and Donald Duck.
Happy, and more than a little tired, everyone left.
"Later, the Disney team and I went on a walkabout in the city centre, which caused a stir. It included a visit to the cathedral, where presents were placed under the Queen's Christmas tree.
"Then the team went to the children's ward at the Infirmary, where permission was given to meet young patients and their parents.
"Just before the day came to an end, the ambassador turned to me and said, "Now Olwen, we think you deserve a present, too."
"I was amazed to be given a five-foot long key to Disneyland Paris, which I was told would get me in free. Needless to say, I still have it as a treasured possession. What an end to a perfect day!"