Eastern Daily Press, Thursday, November 9, 2000

Queen can follow the band, says toddler

By Steve Downes

TOOT TOOT: Toddler Robert Thirst with his parents and grandmother.

Anyone with a two-year-old boy will know that toddlers are no respecters of occasion or status.
So when a Norfolk family went to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen for a poignant MBE ceremony they felt a sense of trepidation.
And two-year-old Robert Thirst did not let them down. As the Queen handed over the MBE awarded to his late grandfather Gerald Thirst, little Robert fearlessly turned tail to go and see the band of the Irish Guardsmen that was playing in the next room - with a cry of "see toot-toot now."
Fortunately, the Queen showed her experience as a grandmother by laughing it off, and finding out that "toot-toot" was Robert's expression for a band.
Tuesday's visit saw Robert joined by his parents Tim and Tricia Thirst, and Tim's mother Yvonne - widow of Gerald, the record-breaking bandmaster who died in April at the age of 84, three months before he was due to pick up his hard-earned MBE.
Tim, of East Ruston, near Stalham, said: "The Queen really made us feel at ease. You could tell she loved children. She said she was very pleased to present the MBE in person.
"She talked to mother about father, and chatted about the 50 years he spent leading the Stalham Brass Band."
Mr Thirst's half-century stint made him a Guiness World Record Holder, and he was made an MBE in the last New Year Honours for service to music and the community.
Tim, who took over as band conductor in 1998, said: "He deserved this accolade and he would have wanted us to be there.
"But, however nice it is, I would rather be sitting on a bench having a chat with him."

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