Ellesmere student meets royal role model

Posted on 17th May 2024 in School News

“Princess Anne is my role model, she is a high-powered military woman who has a feminine side and holds herself correctly - but is not afraid to put her hair up, pull her sleeves up and get to work” - those are the words of a Shropshire teenager who recently met her hero and was enthralled by the drive she gave her.

Abi-Lou Foster, of Market Drayton, said meeting the head of the Veterinary Corps - the exact division she wants to become an officer in - has given her more ammunition to keep going.

Meeting HRH Princess Anne at a Save The Children event at The Lyth last month was in fact the second of three royal meetings the 18-year-old is due to have.

It follows an armed forces celebration attended by Prince Andrew when Abi-Lou was just eight years old - and as she is in the final stages of completing the gold Duke of Edinburgh award, she will complete the royal treble when she is handed that accolade by Prince Edward once accomplished, probably next year.

She said: “I knew I was going to be invited to a Save the Children event and when I saw on Facebook that Princess Anne was in Shropshire on the same day, I connected the dots and thought it was mad. It was so magical that I had to put it together to work it out. I was nervous but she is so down to earth she just spoke to you like a normal person, you could have a giggle with her and it was so nice.

“When I told her that I wanted to be an officer in the Veterinary Corps she was intrigued and asked me about my A levels, she said go for it - meeting her gave me extra ammunition to keep me going. I never thought I would meet one royal, let alone two or perhaps three - it is really nice to realise it is not what you know or who you know, but what you do for people.”

HRH Princess Anne visited the home of Eglantyne Jebb and Dorothy Buxton, co-founders of Save the Children, for which she is Patron on April 24th.

Abi-Lou was invited to take part as she was handed a Jebb Scholarship to Ellesmere College which was established in 2019 by the college’s late headmaster, Brendan Wignall, in honour of Eglantyne Jebb, and is offered to students demonstrating selfless support to the community through volunteering and fundraising.

She also told Princess Anne about her work in aid of Alzheimer's research, animal shelters and care before being presented with a copy of 'The Woman who Saved the Children', signed by Eglantyne award-winning biographer, Clare Mulley.

“I did charity work and didn’t think it would get me into the school of my dreams and create a new pathway for my future. I’ve done running, walking, anything and I wouldn’t like to guess how much I’ve raised over the years - thousands. I volunteered in a dog kennel from the age of 15, I help at Market Drayton Food Bank and had 18 inches of hair cut off for Princess Trust too. I don’t have any money to give so I can give my time and help to raise it, it is so much more important to give time as it is precious to many people.”

And on top of this - the day after meeting her royal hero, Abi-Lou became the only person in the history of Ellesmere College to win three Combined Cadet Force (CCF) trophies not only in one year, but ever.

She won The Wootton Cup for Best Cadet at Summer Camp, The Axe for Best Cadet at Easter Camp and The Blake Hartley Memorial Trophy for Best Cadet for the year. This achievement comes after only being involved in CCF for 18 months, alongside peers who had been part of the group for five years. The former Shrewsbury High School pupil only joined when she moved to Ellesmere on the Jebb Scholarship for sixth form.

Abi-Lou’s mum Sarah-Jayne Foster said she is incredibly proud of her and all she has achieved in her young life: “I am proud of her anyway, she’s done a lot of charity work, won these CCF trophies despite not being from a military background and she received the scholarship, but watching her meeting Princess Anne was surreal. For a young lady to be able to converse with the Princess so easily, it was brilliant to watch, I really appreciated being there. 

“Abi-Lou is an amazing young lady, modest, hard working, kind and an all rounder - all those qualities have shown through in the CCF because she’ll stop and help someone but also have the grit and determination to carry on. The best thing I ever did was move her to Ellesmere College, it has opened up so many more opportunities for her.”

Abi-Lou was surprised to have won the summer camp trophy - then during the Easter camp she had severe blisters which made the mountaineering instructors try to stop her doing the third day. But instead, she taped up her feet up and went out. After falling down a mountain, she completed the tasks with a severely bruised knee, carrying the bag of someone who had twisted their ankle.

Abi-Lou is now told by year ten students that she is their role model and Lieutenant Colonel Martin Clewlow, CCF Contingent Commander and a Chemistry teacher at Ellesmere College, knows why.

He said: “Abi-Lou is an inspiration to many people. She has a fantastic way with people and has made the most of so many opportunities since joining Ellesmere. She throws herself into every task and spreads confidence among whatever team she is in. She has taken up rifle shooting and has clearly set her sights on the career she wants, I have no doubt she will fulfil her dreams and meeting Princess Anne, her future boss, has been a huge driving force for her.”

Other people at the visit of Her Royal Highness included Corinna Jebb, whose late husband Lionel was a great-nephew of Eglantyne Jebb, and Dorothy Buxton, the Ellesmere-born sisters who launched Save the Children in 1919.

Another original member of the group, Sheila Griffith, was also among those introduced to the Princess at the start of her afternoon visit to Ellesmere, together with branch secretary Jean Ferries, who became a member soon after the branch was formed.

Over the years, the Save the Children fundraisers have organised a wide variety of fundraising events, ranging from coffee mornings to rummage sales, sponsored walks, quiz nights, cheese and wine evenings, concerts and barn dances.