It’s a romantic, tragic story: a man and a woman united by marriage and death. Not their own. Or even their families’. Margaret Kittle and John Loughrey, the first two people to wait outside St Paul’s Cathedral for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral tomorrow, meet as spectators at each British state occasion, Margaret coming from Canada, John from Wandsworth.
Margaret, 79, arrived in England from Winona in Canada as soon as she could after Margaret Thatcher died, in anticipation of the funeral, and set up in front of red phone boxes opposite St Paul’s at 8am this morning. John arrived at 10am, clad in a Union Jack beanie and rugby shirt, with a Union Jack tied around his waist.
This Margaret, wearing a Tory-blue overcoat, has spent years watching that Margaret: ‘My husband and I were in Smith Square when she won the three elections and we were here when her daughter-in-law and son got married the first time at the Savoy. I’ve always just admired her as a wonderful person.
‘We saw her as a great mover and a shaker on the international scene, she got friendly with President Gorbachev and President Reagan and the Wall came down. She freed hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans.’
She has no time for Thatcher’s detractors: ‘I’ll be sad because I thought the world has lost a great figure, a humanitarian, no matter what some people might say, but they weren’t even born when she was in power.’
John, 58, chattering animatedly, said Thatcher ‘made Great Britain proud with all policies she did, and she enabled my father to buy his council house in 1979. It gave my dad a great opportunity. I’ve got a lot of respect for Mrs Thatcher, also for the Falklands war, and various things over Europe, the Berlin Wall.’
He was part of the generation whose industrial strikes crippled Britain in the Seventies: ‘When I was working, years ago, I used to do three days a week. I used to work at British Aerospace at the time, and we were only doing three days a week because we were going on strike all the time, and I didn’t like that.
‘That’s why Mrs Thatcher stopped all this, and I’m very proud of Mrs Thatcher. She made Britain great. I know people dislike Mrs Thatcher, but the reason they dislike her is because she did good things, and people don’t like change. And you have to change.’
John and Margaret have seen each other at Royal weddings, Princess Diana’s funeral, Princess Margaret’s funeral, always arriving early and providing companionship, as well as having someone to watch their bags if they need to sneak off to the toilet. ‘We’re very good friends, me and Margaret,’ says John.
He doesn’t have a sleeping bag: he’s planning to stay up all night and talk to people about Mrs Thatcher. ‘And her legacy. Her good legacy.’