Saturday, August 09, 2008


Viewing the cruise ship yesterday brought back memories of the visit of another ship some 34 years ago, with some very important visitors aboard.

On February 10th 1974, the Royal Yacht Britannia came to Norfolk Island, after visiting Christchurch, New Zealand, for the Commonwealth Games.
On board were Her Majesty the Queen and thhe Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips (on their honeymoon) and Lord Louis Mountbatten.

There had been a great deal of excitement and planning for this visit, even though the it was only to take place for one day. As the then President of the Historical Society, Bernie had been involved in the planning, and was to have the honour of showing the Royal Visitors around the Kingston area for an hour or two. It would not happen nowadays - someone far more "official" would have that privilege. A "picnic" was planned, to be held under the trees at our clifftop property "Simon's Water" on the northeast coast of the island. A great deal of sprucing up had been undertaken, including a new fence, mowing and clearing, and moving the cattle and horses to a back paddock!!

When the day dawned, it was obvious that the weather was not going to be kind to us. The seas were so stormy that there was some doubt as to whether the Royal party could be brought ashore.

The venue for the picnic had to be changed - the mud alone would have made it impossible for everyone to descend on Simon's Water, at the end of an unsealed road!

Everything was up in the air, but during the morning, while plans and arrangements were rapidly changing from one minute to the next, there was a sudden break in the weather and the Royal visitors decided to come ashore - and no one was quite ready.

They were transported in the Government launch, with "Ukoo" at the helm. The Royal party travels from the Britannia to the island via the Government launch.

When they arrived at the wharf, the seas were still choppy, and there was the problem of getting from the rocking boat onto the wet and slippery steps. Ukoo will be the only man to go down in history as having instructed the Queen "When I say jump, you jump!"
The Royal party arrives at the pier in wet and slippery conditions.
I could tell you many stories about that day - and yes, although I did not spend the time with the Royal party that Bernie did, I did meet the Queen, and also Captain Mark Phillips. I actually met the Duke of Edinburgh on another occasion. Meanwhile, Bernie was to travel in the car with Her Majesty and Prince Phillip, showing them round All Saints' Church, the newly restored house no.5 Quality Row, and accompanying them for the opening of the newly restored Golf Club building and the Queen Elizabeth Lookout.These are the only pictures I seem to have of me with the Queen (although you can hardly see her here). The Administrator is presenting me and Bernie to her. I an wearing the aprcot coloured dress and white hat. My mother is standing behind nursing Charles and you can just pick out Miriam (2 at the time) between me and Bernie. Miriam insisted on turning her back on her Majesty. I was fairly heavily pregnant with John, and had been worrying about curtseying!

When we were first presented to Her Majesty, she was told that a picnic had originally been planned for her at our farm at Simon's Water. I have this very distinct memory of her saying "Oh - just love picnics!"

Part of the itinerary for that morning was opening a new lookout, to be called the "Queen Elizabeth Lookout." This is the vantage point from which we viewed the cruise ship yesterday.

In those days, one actually had to climb some steps to reach this lookout. Since then there have been major changes to this road (Rooty Hil Road) and the lookout is now at road level, with a beautiful view of our magnificent Kingston area, the bays and the reef, the offshore islands, the Kingston Common, and the graceful penal settlement buildings
This picture (from the Australian Women's Weekly) shows the Royal Visitors at the newly-opened Queen Elizabeth lookout. Bernie is just behind the Queen, who is making her way down the ramp. He is partly obscured by the island's Administrator. The man nearest to the camera, with his back to us, is Bill Heseltine. An Australian, he was the Queen's personal secretary for many years. The lady on his left was a lady-in-waiting.

In this picture, Bernie is standing next to Her Majesty. Lord Louis Mountbatten is on the other side of her, and Prince Phillip behind. Princess Anne and Mark Phillips are in front.

My pictures are old. A couple of them are actually from the Women's Weekly article about the Queen's visit to this island. I should point out that this took place in the days when security was far more relaxed. A few months later, there was a kidnap attempt on Princess Anne, and things began to change. But this visit was relaxed and relatively informal by today's standards! The picnic was finally held in Government House grounds. Afterwards there was an open-air concert. The dinner that had been planned for that evening in Government House was cancelled, because the weather was turning bad again, and it was decided that the special visitors should return to the Britannia before the sea became too rough.

Forgive me for a little bit of "bragging." But these are such special memories. Sometimes I find it hard to believe it happened so long ago - and other times I find it hard to believe it happened at all!!
I have quite a fund of stories - and more photos - of that wonderful day. I will share them with you at some stage!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What wonderful memories you have thank you for sharing them with us.

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