VAL Loft from Farlington has just had her eightieth birthday. She has the unique distinction of once putting the Kray twins in their place and living to tell the tale.
‘Just before ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, I was standing outside a shellfish food shop near the Elephant and Castle in London. I was the only one there waiting for the shop to open so I could buy a crab for Sunday tea. Two tall men came and stood in front of me nearer the door.’
In her mid-twenties at the time, Val told them off, saying: ‘Excuse me. There is a queue and I’m it.”
At this the two blokes laughed and Val thought nothing more of the incident.
A good while later her father was reading the News of the World and the front page carried a picture of the two men.
Val recognised them immediately. She was taken aback to discover they were the notorious London gangsters, Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Her father always said her mouth would get her into trouble one of these days,
In her early years Val trained as a classical pianist and excelled at being an accompanist for soloists at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Later her concerto performances, which included works by Mozart, Grieg and Chopin, took place at the Admiral Lord Nelson School, Dundas Lane, Portsmouth and the Church of the Resurrection, Farlington. She was also a music teacher and head of music at several schools in the Hampshire area.
Fifty-four years later Val is still firing on all cylinders as the backbone of the Portsmouth Light Orchestra. She and her late husband Bob ran the orchestra for many years.
A classically trained and highly accomplished pianist, Val still has a magic touch at the keyboard.
Ed McDermott, conductor of the orchestra, said: ‘Val keeps the whole ensemble running. As well as playing the piano part, she organises the musicians, plus the publicity, programme and poster printing. With her many contacts, she’s also very persuasive at getting players to fill empty slots for major concerts.’
Like her father before her, Val’s daughter, Jenny Reeves, is a fine violinist. She is the leader of the Portsmouth Light Orchestra.
The Portsmouth Light Orchestra is to perform the Men of Prometheus by Beethoven, Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, Saint-Seans’ Danse Macabre, music from Evita by Tim Rice and more besides at its forthcoming concert at 7.30pm on Saturday, May 20 at the Church of the Resurrection, Penrhyn Avenue, Farlington.
Tickets will be on sale in March and can be purchased by telephoning (023) 9237 1135.