A MARKET trader who has brushed shoulders with politicians and Royalty has celebrated her 80th birthday, writes DES PUGH.

Gwen Rogers has been part of the Shire Hall trading scene for 41 years and has become known as the ‘Flower Lady’ although she admits that the supermarkets have killed off her flower trade “so it would be better to call me the Egg Lady now” she told the Beacon.

Trading under the arches of the Grade 1 listed building since 1982, she has seen all sorts of life walk by.

“I’ve had a chat with Paddy Ashdown and William Hague and was even introduced to Princess Anne when she reopened the Shire Hall in 2010 but didn’t get to say anything!”.

The highlight of her life was when William Hague visited her stall - he was canvassing in town for the 1997 general election - and their picture appeared in the Sunday Times and the Independent with Gwen dressed in her trademark Welsh costume.

Fellow traders laid on a birthday spread for her, complete with an 80th birthday balloon, banner and cake and sang her ‘Happy birthday’.

Geoffrey, one of the traders who has been trading alongside her for 15 years said “she is a local treasure.

“She ticks all the boxes for a local market as she brings locally grown flowers, eggs and her own pickles.

“In this day and age, it’s nice to see someone who is actually selling local produce and who has been a lifelong Monmouth resident which is what it’s all about,” he added.

Another trader, Sally Day, who sells soaps, said she made sure Gwen had some nice presents this year and put some money towards the food.

“I didn’t have an extended family and she likes me and I like her, I haven’t been on the bad side of her yet which is nice,” added Sally.

Mac Cambray, who organises the traders said Gwen is one of the last traders still going after his 30 years as market officer.

“She has been a constant presence over the past 30 years” he said.

She had a card and a bunch of tulips from Monmouth Town Council, a bouquet of flowers from another trader Pam, and a card from the former caretaker Tony Lambert amongst the many others she received.

“I’d rather be working as it gives you an interest in life” she said, “but have to stick at it and whatever pitfalls you’ve had, and I’ve had plenty of those, you have to stick at it”.

“Don’t let them get you down,” she added.

“I love the interest of working here and meeting all the people” she added as her fellow traders gathered around to wish her a happy birthday.

Asked whether she thought the merging of the two markets, bottom and top, would work, she said “There isn’t room”.

“We don’t want the situation where they put their van behind their stall as there isn’t room”.

She has also made the headlines for other reasons and was pictured in Wales’ newspapers five years ago sitting in the van she made home following her eviction from a one-bed flat on Worcester Street.

Although MCC housing officers said she had been offered two places to stay, one in Chepstow and one in Monmouth, she turned them down and slept in her van in Glendower Street Car Park despite the chilly temperatures.

Gwen has always fancied a flutter and there was an Irish horse racing on Tuesday night (May 9) in the 4.30 at Ludlow called Gwennie May Boy, the favourite, who won at 2/1 .

“By the time I got back from Abergavenny that day, we had that thunderstorm and down came the rain so I didn’t get to go outside to put a bet on,” she said ruefully.

“I do like a few bets” she smiled with a twinkle in her eye.