Two leading councillors have spoken of their pride in heading to London to pay tribute to the Queen, "the ultimate public servant".

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Borough Council, said: "We're all sharing this once-in-a-generation moment really.

"This is what Britain does the best in terms of creating these ceremonial events that are world-leading.

"We did Her Majesty justice in her final journey and I'm really proud to have been part of that.

"I would say it's been sombre but nice in the sense that people have been upbeat and they've been sharing their positive experiences and the legacy that the Queen leaves behind. It's not all been sad.

"People are absolutely mourning and devastated however they're also reflecting on the positive impact she's had on people's lives."

Read more: Darlington woman reveals what it was like meeting Queen Elizabeth II

Cllr Kevin Nicholson, the council's cabinet member for health and housing, was also in London and said after seeing the parade: "It was just magnificent. It just makes you really proud to be British.

"The public mood in London is one of reflection but also pride.

"It's absolutely right that her legacy lives on with her son who's been at her side for decades.

"It's a bittersweet moment. You have to let go of the past in order to evolve into the future.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Kevin Nicholson. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Kevin Nicholson. Picture: Northern Echo.

"Talking to people in London, they had to see this event and see the Queen lying in state to believe that she'd actually gone."

Cllrs Nicholson and Dulston were among the last people to see the Queen's coffin at Westminster Hall.

They queued for 15 hours before they were admitted at about 6am on Monday morning, half an hour before the line closed.

Cllr Dulston said: "We could see the back of the queue. There was probably another 200 people behind us.

"My feet are in excruciating pain. I'm recovering, 15 hours on your feet is a long time. But it didn't feel like 15 hours.

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"The friendships you make in the queue are like nothing I've ever experienced before.

"The atmosphere and people coming together was really something special. There was a special moment and a special bond that was shared in the line. I spoke to a wide range of people from across the country.

"That's probably the late Queen's legacy that she's still got the ability to bring the country together.

"Considering the hall was full of a few hundred people passing through, you could hear a pin drop. It was as warm as a front room in winter.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.Cllr Jonathan Dulston. Picture: Sarah Caldecott.

"It was such a surreal experience that just made you reflect on such a significant public servant. The ultimate public servant.

"For me a really fitting tribute to a remarkable person."

He thanked emergency services, armed forces and volunteers for their upbeat professionalism in "keeping people going".

He added: "It's been extremely humbling to be part of our communities who are grieving and to support them through this challenging time, but it's just a reminder that public service is something that you have to live and breathe.

"It's a reminder of that person who made the ultimate sacrifice by dedicating her entire life to public service."

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Cllr Nicholson said: "Ultimately as a community champion volunteer myself, you look to people in those role for inspiration. A lot of people were there to just say thank you for the service the Queen gave over the last 70 years.

"Over the last 10 days I've been very moved and very emotional about the whole situation."

He said constituents had asked if he would go to London and see the Queen on behalf of those who could not make it.

He said: "It's nice that people have said 'thank you for representing us', putting Firthmoor and Darlington out there in this national celebration. I'm really proud to have been able to do that."

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He said people kept each others' spirits up during the 15-hour wait, with tea and singing as the queue wound its way to Westminster Hall, making those few minutes inside all the more precious.

"It was pretty much the most intense experience I've ever had to go through in my life.

"You've got a lot of camaraderie. We've met people from Spain, America, the Caribbean. They're all there with the same objective, to pay tribute and respect to the Queen's amazing public service, but also to encourage everybody in the queue to keep going.

"We've had conversations about why the Queen's important, about the cost of living and the fact that down south no one eats pease pudding. There were lots of people talking about their own personal journeys around grief. It was just a really lovely experience.

"The sense of community was alive and well across the Thames.

"You wouldn't have been able to get that if you'd just been able to walk in.

"When we went into Westminster Hall it was a very sombre atmosphere but it almost felt very empowering. It was quite nerve-racking as well. 15 hours didn't matter at all. We were able to pay our own personal respects but also share the views of the residents we represent as well.

"The moment we got to share with the monarch was very special.

"There's a real presence and dignity, and I guess majesty, and it humbles you. You felt really humbled that you'd been able to get the opportunity to recognise your sovereign's contribution. Everybody goes silent and everyone feels really overwhelmed."

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