Pearly Queen reaches milestone

SHIRLEY SMILES: Pearly Queen Shirley Miles, left with  Nelson Region Hospice’s Elspeth Kennedy
SHIRLEY SMILES: Pearly Queen Shirley Miles, left with Nelson Region Hospice’s Elspeth Kennedy

Shirley Miles has been collecting money for the Nelson Region Hospice as a Pearly Queen for a decade and yesterday reached her goal of raising $100,000.

Mrs Miles said it was lovely to reach her target, and it was a relief knowing she could now collect without that pressure, even though it had been self-imposed.

Pearly Queens and Pearly Kings are an organised charitable tradition of working class culture in London.

Mrs Miles said in order to be allowed to wear the Pearly's clothing, a person had to be born in London and have a family history there for 100 years.

At the Nelson Market 11 days ago, Mrs Miles was recognised and thanked for her efforts of raising $92,000. Since then the community has rallied to help Mrs Miles reach the $100,000 mark.

On Monday, the balance of the Pearly Queen's donations was $96,400, then yesterday, an anonymous benefactor topped up the account by $3600 to see the desired balanced reached.

Mrs Miles said she would still go to the market and collect, but now would go only on nice days.

"I would miss it [if I stopped], I've made so many wonderful friends. It's so nice meeting people and having them realise how necessary hospice is."

She also said she would be open to the idea of another Pearly Queen.

"It would be lovely if there was a slightly younger Londoner who could take up the mantle, but I haven't found anyone yet."

She said she was grateful to everyone who had donated to hospice and hoped that just because she had reached her personal goal they did not stop.

Nelson Regional Hospice Trust project manager Hamish Kennedy said it was exciting for Mrs Miles to reach her goal.

"I'm really proud of her. The community has raised this money."

While the donations went to hospice, which helped it to care for those in need, Mr Kennedy said this achievement was all about the Pearly Queen.

Mrs Miles was a regular visitor to hospice, he said.

"She totals up all her donations, and when it gets to $1000 she brings it into the office to sign it over.

"She shows her caring out in the public eye. The doctors and nurses do it in the background and she's been there to support them."