As a self confessed Royalist, Debbie-Lee Wray felt all her dreams had come true when her daughter Emma-Lee was selected to take part in the 90th birthday beacon lighting ceremony at Windsor Castle last week.
However, the trip to England for the family who live in Carnlough, exceeded all Debbie-Lee’s expectations as Emma-Lee, representing the Army Cadets, stood beside Her Majesty The Queen and chatted to Prince Phillip at the event which was screened across the glove.
“Words just wouldn’t describe the whole experience,” said Debbie-Lee.
“It was so surreal to be standing shoulder to shoulder with so many royals.
“The Duke of Edinburgh was very funny and Price Charles and Camilla were so nice, they really are lovely people.”
Even though it was Emma-Lee who was in the spotlight, Debbie-Lee and her husband Tony were within touching distance of Her Majesty.
“When the beacon was being lit we were literally behind Emma-Lee,” continued Debbie-Lee. “It was unreal to be so close to the Queen and the rest of the Royals. Words can’t explain what it was like. “
One thing that surprised Debbie-Lee, whose family come from the Dollingstown area, was the friendliness of the Royal family.
“When Emma-Lee gave the Queen a posy of flowers the Queen said ‘Oh they are beautiful, did you pick those for me?’
“Prince Charles also spoke to Emma-Lee and asked her what stage of education she was at and said he was delighted he didn’t have to do A Levels.
“When the beacon struggled to light, the Duke of Edinburgh turned to Emma-Lee and said ‘I don’t suppose you have a match?’ All the Royals were so down to earth and friendly, I couldn’t believe just how normal they were.”
Watching her daughter take part in the Royal occasion was beyond Debbie-Lee’s wildest dreams.
“It was my dream to be there and now that’s my bucket list complete,” said the Lurgan Mum.
“To see her standing there in her uniform - it was such an honour and I thought to myself ‘That’s my girl,’
“My heart was bursting with pride and I had tears in my eyes.
“When I watched her turn round and salute the Queen I just thought to myself ‘Oh Emma-Lee you are such an amazing kid’.
“She keeps doing so well and what an honour that was for her.
“Afterwards she said to me I can’t actually believe I did that. It was all over too quickly.”
There has been lots of media attention on Emma-Lee which she takes in her stride but it’s back to normality for the Ballymena Academy pupil.
“It’s all been very surreal,” continued Debbie-Lee. “This has been such a massive occasion and there has been tremendous interest in Emma-Lee. However, school is her priority, we had to be home on the 6am flight the following morning so she wouldn’t miss school.
“Emma-Lee sets her standards at school very high but I guess that’s why she got her 8A* and an A grade in her GCSEs.
“Emma-Lee is very much of the belief that if you work hard you get your rewards and I am very proud of her for her work ethics.”
The Wray family have been inundated with messages from friends, family and further afield following their daughter’s royal appearance.
“We have had so many lovely comments from people from all over the place,” said the 17-year old’s Mum.
“We have even had lovely messages from people we don’t know saying what a lovely girl she is and what a great job she did.
“We have been amazed at the number of people who have also come up to my Mum Netta Wells after they read the piece in last week’s Lurgan Mail about Emma-Lee.
“Mummy is just ecstatic about it all because Emma-Lee is the only granddaughter and she is also the oldest grandchild.”
You could possibly say it was Emma-Lee’s destiny to meet the Royal family.
“When Emma-Lee was born we had no name for her for about three weeks. My Dad couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t call her a princess because that’s what she was to him and that’s what he called her. Sadly he died when she was 11 weeks old but to this day my Mum still calls her princess all the time.
“Emma-Lee did us all proud and I have no doubt with her approach to life and determination she will succeed in anything she chooses to do.”