In the Kirby housing estate in London’s Southwark, residents have been decorating their neighbourhood with flags for every international football competition since the Euros in 2012.

As tradition dictates, they spent the days leading up to Euro 2020 covering the area in England’s colours – a sea of red and white for as far as the eye can see.

But this year, an unusual outlier stands proudly amongst the St. George’s Cross - a lone Saltire, a spark of blue beaming out from a window.

But it’s not just the gesture of a brave Scotland supporter filled with pride ahead of tonight’s crunch match with England – instead, the flag has a sentimental value to its owners.

HeraldScotland: Kirby Estate in LondonKirby Estate in London

For Louise Townsend and her brother Henry the Saltire has a special meaning. Not only it symbolises their Scottish roots, but it is also a tribute to their mother, Elizabeth Mcdonald Townsend.

The 44-year-old trainee naturopathic practitioner from Bermondsey, said: “Of course, because it's the only one there, it's kind of caught the attention and it's quite surreal.

“But I think it's nice because you've got this sea of St. George's Crosses and the Scottish flag standing out, and it’s nice that people don't feel that they can't put their own flags out, they are welcome to do that.”

The lady behind the lone Scottish flag was a fervent St Johnstone and, of course, Scotland supporter. She lived in the estate and was known locally as “wee Scottish Lizzie”.

Louise described her as “a very eccentric lady, always very immaculate, with her hair always done.”

HeraldScotland: Elizabeth Townsend moved to London after marrying an English soldier Elizabeth Townsend moved to London after marrying an English soldier

Henry, who still lives in the property, decided to honour their mother, who passed away in 2019, by placing the Saltire on his front porch, next to the England flags.

Elizabeth was born in Perth in 1940, the only girl among five siblings. She moved to London in the 70s, after striking up a pen-friendship and marrying an English soldier.

The couple had six children, but one passed away at the age of three after being hit by a motorbike during a visit to Scotland.

“My mom was never the same after that,” said Louise. “She's had quite a tragic life, bless her. But happy times as well.

“She was down here for well over 40 years, but she never lost her Scottish accent, she refused to,” she added.

“We still visited and holidayed in Scotland regularly, but she was forever homesick.”

Elisabeth died shortly before Christmas 2019 and a year later loss hit the family again: “After my mum's death my dad became so grief stricken that he himself passed away, almost exactly a year after our mum passed,” said Louise.

“He died of a broken heart.”

HeraldScotland: The lone Saltire on the Kirby estateThe lone Saltire on the Kirby estate

Elizabeth was due to return home to her place of birth to have her ashes laid to rest, but when the pandemic hit the family was prevented from fulfilling her final wish.

They are hoping to travel to Perth later this year.

In the meantime, they decided to honour her by showing their support for Scotland at the Euros.

Neighbours welcomed the idea and encouraged others to put up their home country’s flags.

One neighbour, Chris Dowse, 42, said: “We’ve got a Portuguese flag up at the moment, we’re due to have a German one, French and Spanish.

“What we’ve always said is ‘If you wanna put your flag up, as long as you’re in the Championships or the World Cup, get the flag and we’ll put it up for you.’”

Mr Dowse, who works in the hospitality industry, said people first began showing their patriotic side during the Euros in 2012.


He said: “I came home one night and saw one of my neighbours, Alan, had put a couple of flags up. I thought ‘Oh, that looks nice’, and I looked over to the other block and saw a lady had also put a couple of flags up.

“It just didn’t look finished, so I said to Alan ‘Let’s go get some more.’ “So we ended up buying more and more and more. Then one side was complete but Geraldine’s (another neighbour) side wasn’t.

“So we all came together and said ‘Right, we’re doing it properly and we’ll have the whole estate done. In 2018 that was the first time the entire estate had a flag on it.”

“The flags have brought the community together and after the year that we have all had, community spirit and coming together is so important, now more than ever,” added Louise.

“The Kirby does have amazing community spirit.”

Scotland take on England in the Euro 2020 group stage match on Friday night at 8pm.