THE QUEEN’S Royal Swan Marker has been awarded a personal gift from the Monarch after 21 years' service to the cause.

David Barber received the Royal Victorian Order from Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of his long involvement with the centuries-old tradition of Swan Upping.

A successful businessman, Mr Barber grew up and spent most of his life in Marlow, and every year comes through the town as part of his swan-marking census duties.

And the 64-year-old royal servant, who is instantly recognisable in his bright red uniform and feathered cap, made the trip to Buckingham Palace with his family last month to collect his honour.

He said: "It was a terrific day, absolutely wonderful. There were quite a few people getting medals and receiving their honours, and the Queen was standing there talking for over an hour.

"It was a moving occasion which I thoroughly enjoyed, I took the rest of the family along and the Queen has a few words with me about the swans.

"The Royal Victorian Order goes right back to Queen Victoria and is a personal gift for services to the Queen. "I have been doing it for 21 years now, and I will be continuing hopefully for some years yet. Everything is taking shape nicely for this year."

Royal Swan Upping dates back to the 12th century, and involves rounding up and marking every mute swan, which historically remain the property of the reigning British Monarch.

Mr Barber has been involved for 28 years, with 21 of those as Swan Marker. Conservation of the mute swan population is a matter close to Mr Barber’s heart, along with the promoting education about rivers and the wildlife they support.

He has recently completed work on a school project aimed at primary aged children with the River and Rowing Museum at Henley on Thames.

Mr Barber also gives talks on the subject of Royal Swan Upping to local groups wishing to learn about the subject, and travelled to America and Canada where he gave two talks during The Queen’s Diamond Jubliee.

A marine enthusiast, Mr Barber was born in Marlow and has worked on the River Thames all his life. His marine business is based at Cookham on Thames and he now lives in Ibstone.

This year’s Swan Upping begins on July 14, and will travel to Marlow on July 15, with the party departing up the river the following morning.