Axe-swinging Yeoman Gaoler beefeater stepping down at the Tower of London
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:28 18 December 2019
Historic Royal Palaces
The chief Yeoman Gaoler is hanging up his infamous axe at the Tower of London for the last time this week.
Beefeater Bob Loughlin steps down from his second-in-command role after 50 years in uniform, first in the Armed Forces and the last 12 years at The Tower.
The iconic fortress is appointing a new Yeoman Gaoler from the ranks of its 36 beefeaters.
"People have asked me over the last 12 years if I'm happy here," Jim recalls. "I've always said 'Of course' as I live in a royal palace! Not many people can say that."
The highly prestigious Yeoman Gaoler historically was in charge of prisoners including royals and nobles who have lost their head throughout history.
Nowadays he carries the infamous axe only for ceremonial duties, rather than beheadings.
It's a role that few have taken on down the centuries. There have been more presidents of the United States and more people in space than have been Yeoman Gaoler throughout history.
Their role today includes the famous Ceremony of the Keys, which has taken place every night when locking up for at least 700 years, and the ancient ceremony of the Constable's Dues when visiting naval vessels docking in the Pool of London present a barrel of rum as "protection payment" when they're in port.
They have to have served at least 22 years in the Armed Forces before becoming a beefeater.
Bob joined the RAF in 1971 after two years in the Royal Navy which he joined at 15. He has served in Dhofar, Kuwait, Belize and Afghanistan, as well as Northern Ireland.
Bob is succeeded by Yeoman Sergeant Jim Duncan, who takes up the role of Yeoman Gaoler next week.
Jim admits: "I've got a tough act to follow and some big boots to fill. But I'm ready for the challenge and will embellish the role in my own way."
Jim enlisted in the Army in 1972 as a boy soldier at 15 and left after 40 years with the Queen's Regiment and the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, reaching the rank of Royal Sergeant Major, having served in West Germany, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Belize and Falkland Islands.