By Manny Robinson
ANY time you’re Wanstead way, any evening any day, you’ll find Doreen Golding doing the Wanstead walk, oi!
That’s because the 82-year-old great grandmother is Pearly Queen of Old Kent Road and Bow Bells… and as far as she is aware, the only Jewish Pearly Queen in the country.
Doreen, who says that the Pearly Kings and Queens are the original Cockney Londoners, has devoted her life to helping others and was awarded the British Empire Medal some years ago for her tireless charity work.
She received a total of six nominations for her BEM, which was awarded during the late Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List, including nominations from John Cryer MP for Leyton and Wanstead who described her as an “excellent and devoted community ambassador”.
Doreen found her way into the tradition through the London Pearly Kings and Queens Society. She said: “I used to visit my mother-in-law in her care home and I got friendly with the Pearly Queen of Redbridge, who came to entertain. One day she asked my husband and I to be part of her ‘pride’ of helpers.”
The couple became Pearly Royalty in 1995 after spending several years assisting the Pearly Queen of Redbridge, Peggy Oliver, who died in a car accident in 2015.
Doreen’s schedule is punishing. A fully pearled ‘smother suit’ can weigh anything up to 30kg. “No matter how tired I am, I’m out doing charity work,” she says.
‘’I have personally concentrated on raising money for many charities including the Stroke Association (she suffered a stroke in 2013); the London Air Ambulance; Royal National Lifeboat Institute, and any other group that needs my help.’’
Doreen and her first husband Martin were married in Alie Street synagogue in the East End of London but she was left a widow at the age of 34 when Martin died at 37.
She and her second husband Larry were married in 1967 at Newbury Park United Synagogue in Wessex Close. They had moved from the East End to Wanstead.
They bonded over their mutual love of charity work, and going about their Pearly duties together until Larry fell ill.
Now Doreen spends her time raising money for the Pearly Kings and Queens Society’s chosen charities, as well as countless others, visiting community groups, care homes, and schools, including Jewish Care’s Vi and John Rubens House, the Redbridge Jewish Community Centre and Chigwell and Hainault JACS group.
Being a Pearly Queen has seen Mrs Golding meet several of her royal counterparts over the years, including the late Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mother and Duke of Edinburgh. The walls at her home are covered with photographs including her with Sir Michael Caine and Sir Elton John. She has met King Charles III and tap danced with Kate Moss.
Doreen is also a Freeman of the City of London and the longstanding chair and treasurer of the Wanstead Historical Society, who have branded her the town’s “most popular and prominent community member”.
Asked what enables her to keep up with such a busy schedule at 82, Doreen replied “Pearly Kings and Queens do it because we want to. It’s all about willpower.”
• The London Pearly Kings and Queens Society can be found collecting for local charities at the junction of Brick Lane and Cheshire Street on the first Sunday of every month and in Covent Garden on the third Sunday of every month.