Pearly Queen Diane Gould follows in the rich tradition of Pearly royalty. Born in North London into a family of Costermongers (street market traders) her Father Alf Dole was grandson of the very first Pearly King of St Pancras, having put on his first suit as the Pearly Prince aged 7.
As Diane says, The Costermongers worked hard and played hard, always ready for a sing song and knees up in the local battle cruiser (boozer).
The Costermongers were a resilient bunch with a Stoic outlook on life. If you fall on hard times- well, you just pick yourself up and get on with it. And boy did they have hard times going back three and four generations, but they were often carefree happy times too. Playing out in the streets of London, spending long hot summers hopping down in Kent.
Underpinning much of what the Pearlies have always been about is charity, and today Diane and her fellow Pearlies , share their rich history through education programmes, community projects, social engagement and of course fund raising for wonderful causes including the world renowned, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Rippledown Environmental Education Centre, giving kids from Inner London a rare chance to engage with the natural word.
The tradition of Pearly Kings and Queens started in 19th Century Victorian London, and their reason d’etre of spreading good will and cockney spirit is as important today as ever.
In this episode Pearly Queen Diane takes us back in time to recount some of the wonderful stories from her inspiring heritage. This Your London Legacy.
Note! Regular listeners to the podcast will know that at the end of each interview we ask our guests to tell us one or two of their favourite places in London, that is personal to them and perhaps not everyone knows about.
Well I’ve now compiled for you 60 of my guests favourite places in London and you can get this unique brochure 100% free. www.yourlondonlegacy.com Alongside each guest recommendation is a brief quote explaining why they love the place, a lovely picture of the place, plus links to the venue and the podcast episode itself so you can check it out for yourself. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did creating it for you.
“You got to live and let live if you want to get by. It’s only a matter time if you live or if you die. What difference does it make if you’re rich or if you’re broke—in 100 years from now it’ll all be a joke.”
Diane gives us a rundown of the Costermongers in a tradition that runs back hundreds of years. In each of London’s 28 boroughs a Coster King and Coster Queen was decided to watch over the corresponding street market. They looked after the interests of the markets and interact with them, and the Coster Queens and Kings would talk and entertain and listen to keep them coming back to their market—and if one of the Coster traders went on hard times they would go to their Coster King or Queen for help—thus starting the tradition and heritage of charity among the Pearlies.
So how did Pearlies come about? Diane’s Great Grandad—as legend has it—appeared in a top hat in dress suit completely covered in peals and wanted to go out and help the poor people at markets, as Costermongers weren’t exactly sharp dressed. The pearls are said to have been found in the Thames and her Great Grandad went about fashioning them to his suit.
“We’re connected through story, aren’t we? We’re connected through story—in many ways. In story and song.”
The Pearly Prince of St Pancras is a book written by Diane’s father Alf Dole, who sadly passed before the collection of his stories was published—but I can tell you first hand that they are absolutely phenomenal, one of which features him at the ripe age of 7 in charge of getting all his siblings on a train. They are stories that expose depths of poverty and hilarity alike, like being wrapped in a rug and shoved into the overhead luggage rack on a train.
Diane carries on the Pearly tradition with eccentric, clothing adorned with emblems, medals, pearls, and feathers. It was an absolute blast to chat with Diane in full uniform and you can see for yourself over at Pearlies.org.uk and find even more stories and history, along with her father’s book The Pearly Prince of St Pancras.