A brave man who grew up in Bury has shared his incredible story which began when a young King Charles paid a visit to the town centre decades ago. 

Paul Wilson made his way through the town centre during school time, taking off his tie so he wouldn't be recognised, jumping onto a friend's shoulders and shaking hands with the now King of England. 

Bury Times: Paul Wilson Paul Wilson (Image: Harriet Heywood)

The photo that captured the special moment not only landed him in trouble when his mum found it in the Bury Times, but it marked the start of his journey travelling the world and going from the RAF to an MBE winner.  

Paul, now aged 60, said: “I have a feeling that photo landed me in a bit of trouble for playing truant.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson meets King CharlesPaul Wilson meets King Charles (Image: Paul Wilson)

“It is possible I volunteered at my school, Bury Church CE, to see Charles but I have clearly taken my tie off in the photo so you can’t see which school I went to.

“I must have thought I was being sneaky, but that photo dropped me in it because my mum saw it in the Bury Times the next week.”

Paul came face to face with the prince during his out-of-school escapade in 1977 as Charles visited the borough as part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations.

Bury Times: A young Paul Wilson A young Paul Wilson (Image: Paul Wilson)

He said: “I am only little, so I had to get on someone’s shoulders to see and the prince spotted me, asked if I was skipping school and shook my hand.

“I didn’t know it at the time but that was the beginning of my immense connection with the royal family.”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson Paul Wilson (Image: Paul Wilson)

He played the cornet in the Tottington and Ramsbottom Brass Band from around the age of four and had always wanted to join a military band, so a year later, took a trip to London.

He said: “It was a long journey there and an even longer one back.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson RAF Band Paul Wilson RAF Band (Image: Paul Wilson)

“Neither the army, navy or marines, would take me because I was so small but when the RAF was suggested, it seemed like the perfect solution, they were happy with my height and I asked to join their band.”

Paul auditioned by playing his cornet but he panicked when they informed him that he needed to play two instruments to join.

He said: “I don’t know why I tried to play the violin, but it didn’t go well, it sounded worse than a cat being strangled, and I had to promise that I would never pick one up again.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson RAF band Paul Wilson RAF band (Image: Paul Wilson)

“I had a very sad and lonely journey back home crying because I thought I'd blown it.

“I decided to be a gardener with my dad and tried my best to forget the whole thing until a letter came to my door.”

Paul was accepted and became the principal cornet player, choosing the trumpet as his second instrument.

He said: “I’m proud to be from Bury and I always end up being drawn back but as a young lad, that acceptance letter gave me the freedom to go into the big wide world and really experience life.”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson archive image Paul Wilson archive image (Image: Paul Wilson)

In 1981, at 19 years old, he had a second brush with royalty, playing at Charles and Diana’s wedding.

Paul said: “I remember it like it was yesterday, I was positioned outside of New Scotland Yard, to entertain the crowds until the royal carriage came past and I joined in the procession.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson talked about his past when visiting Bury Paul Wilson talked about his past when visiting Bury (Image: Harriet Heywood)

“It was surreal, and the country was so happy, you could feel how it lifted the nation”.

Paul went on to play at the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, the Cenotaph on Remembrance Days, the Albert Hall and Buckingham Palace.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson Saint Paul’s Cathedral Paul Wilson Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Image: Paul Wilson)

At 20, he played the Last Post at Saint Paul’s Cathedral after the Falklands War.

He said: “The royal family, Reagan, Thatcher, Gorbachev, and the ministers were all there and I was stood with TV cameras about a foot away from me.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson at the Tower of London Last Post Paul Wilson at the Tower of London Last Post (Image: Paul Wilson)

“As a young trumpeter, it was terrifying, but I never missed a note and after that, I thought nothing could ever frighten me again.”

But, in 1991, Paul encountered a new fear when he was called into the Gulf War as a medic.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson Gulf War Paul Wilson Gulf War (Image: Paul Wilson)

He said: “It was decided we were going to be medics, not musicians and I can't even begin to express how absolutely terrifying it was because I had a young family by then.

“On Christmas Eve, we had to get a solicitor out to do the will, sort my life insurance and I wrote my goodbye letters.

“During training, they said you might not come back from this, it's going to be a chemical war and they gave us a cocktail of 13 or so different injections.”

Paul witnessed just under 30 missile strikes when posted in Saudi Arabia.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson Gulf War mapPaul Wilson Gulf War map (Image: Paul Wilson)

He said: “We didn’t know if the missiles would be chemical so after a hit, we would have to wait and see what happened.

“After a while, we realised they weren’t which was a relief, but the damage they caused was traumatising.”

During his time with the RAF band, Paul also had three close calls with the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

In 1981, a bomb was planted at the RAF Uxbridge base with 35 RAF musicians and 15 airmen living there were evacuated before it exploded.

Bury Times: Bomb blast newspaper cutting Bomb blast newspaper cutting (Image: Paul Wilson)

Paul said: “The first one took place at my accommodation block.

“We had our tea later than usual that day and when we came out of the dining area we watched our accommodation blow up, with all our belongings.

Bury Times: Bomb blast newspaper cutting photoBomb blast newspaper cutting photo (Image: Paul Wilson)

“I do wonder if we had not been late for tea, would we have gone too.”

The second occasion was in London at the Hyde Park and Regent Park bombings where Paul’s band switched parks at the last minute and avoided harm.

Bury Times: Before taking down of Berlin Wall 1988Before taking down of Berlin Wall 1988 (Image: Paul Wilson)

And when he was in Germany, Paul was having a pint in a pub when the building next door “just went up” after a confirmed IRA bomb.

He said: “I went on tour in Ireland which was terrifying.

“Marching down the streets with the military band when no one wanted us there, you can imagine the threats we got but luckily we survived and from then on, I started running marathons.”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson London Marathon 1995Paul Wilson London Marathon 1995 (Image: Paul Wilson)

Paul ran the London Marathon for a blind children’s charity and after his success, continued fundraising and began organising outdoor concerts.

He said: “I was living in Lincolnshire, and I put leaflets all over the town, set up a stage and had the RAF swing band come down to perform.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson's memories show Diana visit in 1991 Paul Wilson's memories show Diana visit in 1991 (Image: Paul Wilson)

“I don’t know if I was naive, stupid or it was just a berserk turn of events, but thousands of people turned up.

“I got in trouble because I hadn’t expected so many and hadn’t filled out the right health and safety forms, but we raised thousands of pounds.”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson with the band Paul Wilson with the band (Image: Paul Wilson)

The following year, he ran the London Marathon again and organised the concert, “properly this time”.

Following his continuous fundraising, a station commander arrived at a parade where Paul was playing.  

He said: “He kept looking at me and I thought, oh God, what have I done now?

Bury Times: Paul Wilson's charity walk at the Great Wall of China Paul Wilson's charity walk at the Great Wall of China (Image: Paul Wilson)

“I was ordered to stand to attention and he announced to the whole band that he just had her letter from Her Majesty the Queen and I was going to be awarded an MBE.

“All I could think was how the hell is a 35-year-old trumpet player from Bury getting an MBE?”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson meeting the QueenPaul Wilson meeting the Queen (Image: Paul Wilson)

In 1997, Paul went to Buckingham Palace with his parents and received his MBE from Her Majesty.

“I’m convinced she must have studied my life- she walked over, shook my hand and asked me how the band was going and how my two boys were.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson 1995 marathon Paul Wilson 1995 marathon (Image: Paul Wilson)

“When she's finished talking and wants to move on, she'll switch her handbag over, but she didn't, she kept chatting.

“I was so nervous, I just kept thinking, come on, switch the bag because I didn’t know what to say but she was just the most incredibly friendly woman.”

Bury Times: Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 1985Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 1985 (Image: Paul Wilson)

Paul also encountered Charles again at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, saying he came over to have a chat and a “good laugh” with all the lads.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson's Royal Oakeley Brass Band image Paul Wilson's Royal Oakeley Brass Band image (Image: Paul Wilson)

“I think back to that one innocent handshake all those years ago and look at where I am now, it is incredible.”

Paul has since moved to Wales with his wife to help on the family campsite and quickly made a name for himself in the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

He said: “To make friends in Wales, the best thing to do is to join a band so I did just that.

Bury Times: Paul Wilson with the Royal Oakeley Brass BandPaul Wilson with the Royal Oakeley Brass Band (Image: Paul Wilson)

“One day, one of the other members looked me up on Facebook, found my music qualifications, and before I knew it, the musical director of the band retired and turned to me to say, ‘over to you now’.

Paul is now the musical director at the Royal Oakeley Brass Band, who have recently been crowned the ‘Welsh Champions’.

“I am very happy here, living on the beach in this beautiful place and because my family still live in Bury, I’m often going back home to see them.”

Bury Times: Paul Wilson as a teacher Paul Wilson as a teacher (Image: Paul Wilson)

Paul is currently turning his memories into a biography for his family to look back on adding that the full novel would be “far too big” and “personal” to share.

He did admit though that if he ever has a “spare few grand lying around” to tidy it up, he would consider publishing.