Maundy honour for pensioner Josie

Josie Armstrong with the letter inviting her to receive Maundy money from the Queen. Picture by Ian Appleby
Josie Armstrong with the letter inviting her to receive Maundy money from the Queen. Picture by Ian Appleby

A Newbiggin woman is off to London next week – by Royal appointment.

Josie Armstrong, 80, has been chosen to receive Maundy money from the Queen.

She will be one of 180 recipients – 90 men and 90 women – attending the ceremony in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on Maundy Thursday in the Queen’s 90th year.

It was an unexpected surprise when an envelope emblazoned with the Buckingham Palace crest dropped through her letter box.

Josie was taken aback when she read the letter from the Royal Almonry Office.

“I knew nothing about it and consequently, it came as a complete surprise,” she said.

“My name had been submitted by the Bishop in the Newcastle diocese and I had feelings of disbelief that I had been chosen.

“When the news eventually sunk in, I was flabbergasted because I think there are a lot more people worthy of an honour than myself. Nevertheless, I’m highly delighted and looking forward to it very much.”

Josie, born in New Hartley, was a laboratory technician as well as a teaching assistant at Seaton Delaval First School and later at Morpeth’s Newminster and Rothbury’s Dr Tomlinson middle schools.

She will fly down from Newcastle to Heathrow with her husband Jim the day before the event. The devoted couple are due to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary in April next year.

A few years ago, Josie was with a group of helpers from St Bartholomew’s Church in Newbiggin, who saw the Queen at an event at Alnwick Castle. Now she will get to meet the monarch.

“It’s such a great honour at my time of life,” she said.

The Royal Maundy is an ancient ceremony which has its origin in the commandment Christ gave after washing the feet of his disciples on the day before Good Friday.

As early as the 13th century, members of the royal family took part in Maundy ceremonies, to distribute money and gifts and wash the feet of the poor.

In the 18th century, the feet washing was discontinued and in the 19th century money was substituted for the gifts.

Today, the sovereign hands to each recipient two small leather string purses. One contains – in ordinary coinage – money in lieu of food and clothing; the other contains silver Maundy coins consisting of the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age.