Queenie Buckland, Queen’s Crescent trader with formidable reputation
Tributes to outspoken single mother-of-five who was well known throughout NW5
21 February, 2017 — By Dan Carrier
THE streets of Kentish Town came to a standstill as hundreds of people came out to pay their respects to Queenie Buckland née Felix, as the Queen’s Crescent trader and mother of five was laid to rest.
Queenie, who spent most of her life living and working in NW5, was 86.
Her formidable reputation made her a matriarchal figure to scores of people, and a funeral cortege of more than 40 cars left her Gaisford Street home to attend a service honouring her memory at St Dominic’s in Southampton Road last Wednesday.
Queenie was born in Somers Town in 1931 to a family of market traders. Her father William had also been a professional boxer. She went to Alderman Street school until war broke out, and was then evacuated to Wales with her brother Billy.
The funeral cortège outside Queenie’s home
On their return, her parents had moved above a greengrocers they managed in Malden Road, and she attended Carlton School.
She married her first husband, George Brunt, in 1948. His family ran a vegetable stall by the Oxford Arms pub in Kentish Town Road. Her second husband, Terry Buckland, worked in Queen’s Crescent market, where Queenie also ran stalls. Her life was dedicated to hard work – she was the single mother to five – and having fun.
Daily acts of kindness and generosity were countered by a caustic wit and her loyalty to her family and friends. Queenie had an eye for a deal for her stall in the Crescent and at Portobello. She would collect over-sized dresses that were factory seconds destined for department stores from a wholesaler.
Her family would be roped into snipping out the labels and they would be sold on for a profit. She would work as a Silver Service waitress to bring in extra money, and often events would take her out of London.
Her family recall how once she had been working in a marquee with potted conifer trees outside as décor. Queenie had her eye on one, so she smuggled it home, planted it and then years later joked she got her comeuppance when its roots caused subsidence. Another tale illustrating her temperament related to how she reacted after her second husband had had an affair.
She invited him over for a cup of coffee – in which she dropped a powerful laxative, stripped him of his trousers and turned him out into the street with just a sheepskin coat on.
Her Gaisford Street home was the setting for lots of parties and meals where spare places were laid for unexpected guests. Her love of a laugh extended to winding up grandchildren: she would pretend to eat a goldfish by shoving her hand in a tank and swallowing the creature with much lip-smacking while youngsters stared in horror. The children would only realise years later the “fish” were carrots!
Queenie was known for being a poor driver – it took her seven attempts to pass her test – yet her family recall how when on the road, anyone honking at her would get a dressing down. Queenie loved taking her family to the dogs and horse racing, or day trips to the beach, playing darts for the Gypsy Queen darts team.
Friends at her wake at the Freemasons in Hampstead told how every day was full of fun and hard work, tales and practical jokes.
“Nanny” Queenie, as she was known to many, was called “the glue who held so many of us together,” according to her son George.
Queenie was the ‘life and soul of the party’
VETERAN New Journal court reporter David St George was a life-long friend of Queenie Buckland.
“Queenie was a beauty,” he recalled. “She had the looks, the style and glamour that could have taken her to Hollywood. Friendly, independent, outspoken, she resisted the temptation to leave the Queen’s Crescent locality.
“Queenie always had a wicked sense of humour and a memory for odd things – she could count to 10 in Welsh. She saw the golden age of street markets and the characters they threw up, she was the life and soul of the party and never lost her dignity nor spirit.”