The first ever carnival queen of St Neots dies at 85

Jean Covington

Jean Covington - Credit: Archant

The teenage girl who was named as the first-ever St Neots carnival queen has died at the age of 85.

Jean Covington

Jean Covington - Credit: Archant

Jean East (nee Covington) of Orchard Close, passed away on September 14 after a short illness and this week her daughter, Jackie East, shared the story of her late mother’s crowning glory.

In 1948, the country was still reeling from the aftermath of the Second World War, but there were also signs that people, businesses and the government were feeling confident about the future. In this year, the Porsche motor company was formed, the bikini was gaining popularity, the polo mint was being sold in shops, and St Neots crowned its first-ever carnival queen.

Jean Covington, from Eaton Socon, was the fresh-faced 16-year-old who took the title at the competition, organised by St Neots Rowing Club, as a one-off event, held on the Market Square.

Jean Covington died on September 14 at the age of 85.

Jean Covington died on September 14 at the age of 85. - Credit: Archant

Jean worked as a waitress

at the Stiles Cafe, on the Market Square, and Jackie says she only entered the contest because all the entrants were promised a ticket for the celebration dance.

“Mum only entered because she couldn’t afford a ticket to the dance, she didn’t expect to win,” said Jackie.

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That first year, 40 girls entered the competition and Jean made the final four before being crowned the winner. She won £5 in prize money, a portrait sitting, and a voucher to

have a perm.

“Mum had naturally curly hair so she gave the perm voucher away, but she used the prize money to buy her dress for the dance,” said Jackie.

“She spent £7, 7 shillings and 56d on the dress which she bought from Barretts. She didn’t quite have enough money, but her mum gave her the rest as she was so thrilled that she had won. Mum was always proud that she was the first winner and that the competition went on for another 60 years.”

Jean, who went on to marry

Leslie East, who died in 1987, took part in a 50th anniversary procession of past carnival queens in 1998.

What else was happening in 1948.

* Prefab housing was being built to deal with post-war shortages.

* Apartheid began in South Africa.

* The NHS was created in the UK.

* The Summer Olympics were held in London.

* Beer was 1s 4d a pint, petrol 2s 2d a gallon and a Mars bar was 5d.

* Three Nuns pipe tobacco was 2s 7d per ounce.

* Kiwi shoe polish was 4d and 8d per tin.

* A new house would have sold for about £750.

* The Co-op opened its first supermarket.

* The first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was held in London.

* Bread rationing ended.

* Jockey Lester Piggott, aged 12, won his first race, at Haydock Park.