A proud moment for Scott Williamson
September 28, 2022, 9:44 am
On Friday, Kevin Weedmark spoke with Scott Williamson, originally from Rocanville, who was one of four RCMP riders leading the Queen’s Funeral procession Monday. The full interview follows.
How was your trip to London?
It was something else, let me tell you. It was a whirlwind from beginning to end and there’s a lot still to absorb, but it was something else.
Tell me a little bit about your history with the RCMP? Growing up in Rocanville were you always thinking that you were going into the RCMP?
Growing up I always assumed that I would just be taking over the farm from my father and become the next generation of farmers, but I would say that my interest in the RCMP really took off when I was playing Midget hockey in Moosomin.
At the time the coach was a member of the Moosomin detachment and I think that’s really where my interest was piqued as far as becoming a Mountie. I never looked back from there. I decided that that’s what I wanted to do. I went on a few ride-alongs with this member and said “Yes, this is definitely my calling.”
How long have you been with the RCMP and the Musical Ride?
I’m going into my 23rd year with the RCMP and with the Musical ride I’ve been on and off about 13 years.
Now how did that come about? Did you say “Geez I’m tired of writing tickets, I want to ride a horse?”
Ha ha, it was actually kind of like that, to be honest. At the time I was posted up in Northern Saskatchewan in a fly-in community, Wollaston Lake, and typically when you’re leaving those isolated northern posts, you get your pick of the litter, as it be, for detachments or postings.
I had expressed interest in going to the Musical Ride and because I was due to be posted out of Wollaston Lake, they sent me on the try-out course. I was selected and then transferred here for the intermediate course, which is about seven to eight months of training. I was successful on that and then went over to the Musical Ride where I went through another four months of training. Then I eventually did my first show with the Ride.
Certainly my passion for the Ride started there, and then I left the ride for about five or six years. I was on the Emergency Response Team here in Ottawa, which was our counter-terrorism tactical unit.
I spent six years doing that and then came back to the Musical Ride as an instructor and worked up through the ranks. Two years ago I was put into the position of Riding Master as a Sergeant Major.
So in that position as Riding Master, is this something that you knew was a potential duty of the Musical Ride members when the Queen passed, that this would be on the agenda?
As I’m sure you well know, there was a plan in place called Operation London Bridge. When I was put into the position as Sergeant Major here, that file was handed over to me, so I went through the file and it was very specific from the Queen and through the Commonwealth that each participant of the Commonwealth that was requested by the Queen had to have a certain representation as far as rank.
You had to have one Commissioned Officer, one Warrant Officer, which is what my rank is, one Junior NCO and then one Private. So I knew at the time that since I was the only Sergeant Major that had any significant horseback experience, that I would be attending. I had known for some time that I would attend, just you never know when.
Was it always in the plan that you would ride the horses that had been gifted to the Royal Family over the years or was there a plan to take horses from the Musical Ride over there?
The plan always was to ride the horses that we had gifted Her Majesty.
Tell me what it was like taking part in it? Was there a lot of practice before the actual funeral or was there some time getting the horses and riders working together?
That’s a great question. We flew in on Tuesday and pretty much from the moment we hit the ground at Windsor Castle we were mounted up on the horses. We got used to them and took them out for a hack or a ride and schooled them a little bit. That night we departed Windsor at 10 o’clock in the evening to go into London for a middle-of-the-night rehearsal, which is fairly typical of the British military. They like to do their rehearsals in the middle of the night.
Because the streets are empty?
Exactly, and to keep things a bit of a surprise. So we were mounted up by 1:30 in the morning and we didn’t dismount until six o’clock in the morning, so it was quite a long rehearsal.
From there we got a pretty good idea of where the shortcomings were going to be with the horses and we had the remaining four or five days at Windsor Castle where just our little contingent rode the horses and prepared them specifically for what we had done during the rehearsal. We were able to very much close the gap on what we found their weaknesses were and prepare them for the actual event itself.
Were these horses given pretty much the same training that a Musical Ride horse would be given before they were gifted to the Royal Family? Were they easy to work with that way?
Yes, with the exception of one horse, Elizabeth. She never did do her time on the Musical Ride. She was five years old when she was gifted, if my memory is correctly, so she never did the Ride. However she still went through all of the same training phases that all of our young horses go through before going to the Musical Ride.
With the other horses, George, Sir John, and Darby, they were in fact on the Musical Ride for at least two years before they were gifted. In the case of Sir John and Darby, I had ridden them quite a bit before they were gifted to the Queen so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from them.
How did it feel to actually be leading that procession?
That has been, for certain, the most asked question by far and it sounds so cliche to say the words, but I just cannot describe the magnitude of what it was that we did and what we were feeling.
That feeling when we first turned down the mall and we had Buckingham Palace straight ahead of us—that was really our first opportunity to see the millions of people that were lining the streets.
It was just incredibly overwhelming and I’m sure you could appreciate, too, I had a lot of thoughts of ‘Here is this young farm boy from Saskatchewan. How did he get to this place?’
There was definitely a pinch-me moment of being very grateful for having that opportunity to represent, not just the force, but our mantra that whole week was that we were really representing the whole country.
Every single Canadian that we know would have loved to have been there on their own behalf for that special day and that was our moment to represent every single Canadian and be at the very forefront, by Her Majesty’s request, to lead Her Majesty to her final resting place.
It was just incredibly powerful and you had every emotion from honour and pride, and then on the other hand, grief, sorrow and sadness because at the end of the day it was a funeral and it was a funeral for our Queen. It was kind of a weird feeling at times, to be honest with you.
What sort of things have you heard from people talking about it since then? We had put up a a story with some information saying that you were part of it and showing a picture of the four riders and their horses. Of the four hundred comments on that, almost all of them were about the pride they felt seeing the RCMP taking part—what sort of things are you hearing from people?
I’m getting a lot of that as well,and it’s just flooding in like crazy. It certainly makes me very happy to know that was the feeling the vast majority of Canadians felt. We did achieve our objective of representing Canadians in that procession.
Of course I’ve heard a lot from family and friends in the Rocanville and Moosomin area and that means that much more to me as well.
You don’t get to places like this on your own. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” could not be more true when you grow up in communities like Rocanville and Moosomin.
I had so many people to be thankful for that helped me get to where I was just this past Monday.
It meant a lot to hear that I was making people from the Rocanville and Moosomin area proud as well. I am happy to hear that they’re very proud of me representing them, because I truly felt that I was representing them.
What are you going to do to top this? You must have something else on your bucket list.
I don’t think there will be any topping that.Of course our eyes and ears are turned towards the potential coronation now, but I don’t think that even the coronation can top that moment. Her Majesty was just beyond special, regardless if you’re pro-monarchist or not.
What Her Majesty represented and her service to really all people around the world is just something to really take notice of—she was just incredibly special.