Columns on HM and HRH
Maybe never again will we see a Royal Visit like that of 1954. The Queen and her Prince were both young, both very handsome and there was a sort of mystic curiosity about them. It became terribly important to see them with one’s eyes, to verify for oneself that they really existed. So it became a competitive game to see the Queen. The Sun News-Pictorial reported that many women saw the Queen fourteen or fifteen times, but it was a man, Mr W. K. Bartel, of North Balwyn, who broke their record. An amateur photographer, he saw the Queen twenty-two times.
As a tour it was unbearably exhausting. It had something of the atmosphere of a Caesar or a Pompey returning from their victories on the Rhine to claim their triumph. The monarch was paraded through the streets to the cheers of the crowd and all the trappings were there bar the captured slaves following behind, roped neck to neck.
Of the welcome in Sydney Graham Stanford of The News of the World cabled: ‘Four fantastic days and nights came dangerously near mass hysteria. Police who are making a close study of the crowd reactions have some cause for anxiety as the enthusiasm of Australia’s welcome beats anything I have known before or since the Coronation — at times it is almost frightening in its intensity.’
Even before the Tour started it was almost necessary for the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales to go to war. There was the fearful question of protocol as to who should be the first to greet the Queen on Australian soil. Mr John Cahill, Premier of New South Wales, claimed that when the Queen landed from the Gothic in Sydney, she would be the guest of the State Government, so Commonwealth representatives should remain in the background. But the Commonwealth was not prepared to postpone its display of ceremonial belltoppers until Her Majesty reached Canberra ten days later. It was even suggested that unless Mr Cahill capitulated the itinerary would have to be rearranged with the Gothic calling first at the Royal Australian Naval base of Jervis Bay, south of Sydney. There Mr Cahill would be utterly sabotaged for Jervis Bay was Federal territory.
Finally, Mr Menzies won the battle. He and Mr Cahill had a thirty minute conference. Later Mr Cahill announced that Mr Menzies would greet the Queen and introduce his Cabinet, then he would take over and present his New South Wales Cabinet, Lord Mayor and others. However, Mr Cahill had some kind of revenge. There was public fury over the number of times that public officials met or were presented to the Queen. Mr Cahill was presented more than thirty times. We used to call him ‘I'll See You Again’ Joe. His favourite stunt was to see the Queen off in Sydney, then he’d go licketty-spit for a country town. Then, lo, who should be waiting to meet the Queen at the town but ‘I'll See You Again’ Joe.
It's all history the way the crowds behaved. For example, it was reported that on 24 February 1954 in Melbourne more than a million people lined the eleven-mile route of the Royal Progress. If this were true more than fifty per cent of the population were out waving that day. Many of them sat out in the open all night to get positions. Perhaps the most extraordinary scenes took place as the Queen arrived at Government House at 5 p.m. Here 500 in the crowd collapsed. They had been waiting from twenty up to twenty-four hours and it was all a mixture of excitement and exhaustion. Eight years later eyebrows were raised when 300 teen-agers collapsed outside the Southern Cross Hotel upon the arrival of the Beatles, but the circumstances were very similar.
The build up had been coming so long, it was very difficult not to get carried away by this occasion. One newspaper reported in headlines THE GREATEST DAY IN MELBOURNE’S HISTORY, another WOMEN GASPED AT THE QUEEN’S BEAUTY, but my favourite story came from the social writer who was covering the tour around Victoria aboard the Royal Train. It read: GOORAMBAT, Today. Two cows in a paddock beside Goorambat station must have been fitted with silencers for this terrifically important morning. About 5.30 a.m. they gave only the gentlest of ‘moos’, not sufficient to disturb the Royal sleep, and then subsided. Even the early magpies seemed to warble discreetly. It was almost impossible to believe as I looked down the lighted path between the trains at about 1 a.m. that in the darkened carriage beyond the last light the Queen of Australia was sleeping in her Australian countryside.
This tour was a marathon. The Queen and Prince Philip were away from England for six months. It taught everyone, including the Royal household, a great deal, and for all tours afterwards, there was a shortening of the course and an easing of formality. In future, we were told, members of the Royal Family would come out to perform specific tasks.
Prince Philip did just that in 1956. He came out to open the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, but first he made a tour of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. For this tour there was just a small press party. Reporters and photographers had to represent chains of newspapers and space aboard official aircraft was limited. Planning was done in quite extraordinary detail. Each of us received a movement order about the size of the Gutenberg Bible and we were told exactly what we had to wear. We would be moving around New Guinea and the islands so quickly there would be no time to have things laundered. So we would need six no-iron nylon white shirts, four pairs of white shorts, two pairs of long whites, black tie and white evening jacket. Actually the newspapermen were virtually the only people who wore the white shirts and the white socks, so it was almost as if we were in uniform.
The Duke arrived at Port Moresby aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia and tribesmen came hundreds of miles on foot and by canoe to greet him. There was one fascinating story about King Metakaka, of Tobriand Island, who was coming with his entire court, including his thirteen wives, his jester and his food taster. Metakaka, we were told, normally sat on a raised platform and none of his tribesmen was allowed to be on the same level. All men, women and children had to walk on their knees in his presence. What would happen with Prince Philip? After all, he wasn’t a King; he was the Queen’s husband and known to the Papuans as 'No. 2 boss'. A Government official was despatched to the King, who explained that the Duke was a Royal visitor to New Guinea and the King should not insist on formalities the Duke himself did not insist on. The King sent back word that he agreed and he would attend the Government House reception provided his food taster tasted the food first.
There was another small worry. Mr Justice Bignold of Port Moresby possessed a large chou dog which had a magnificent coat of red hair. The dog was found dead, and very neatly skinned, lying on the beach. At the celebrations on the Saturday night police searched everywhere for any tribesman sporting a splendid dress of red chou fur, but the crime went unsolved.
It was a great privilege to be in Papua and New Guinea at this time. Here was a whole area that was put completely on display for one man. Money was spent that in no circumstances would be spent at another time. At towns like Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul we saw great gatherings of tribesmen, incredible Sing Sings, the like of which may not be seen again. Just the physical business of bringing them to the main towns was difficult enough. In some places representatives of various tribes had to be flown in by DC3. There were said to be 20,000 waiting for the Duke in Port Moresby.
At the Ela Beach demonstration there was a party of Oraikava chiefs, survivors of the stone age. Some had bones through their noses. Some carried great stone clubs. One tall thin fellow wore clothing of grass with wild boar’s tusks around his neck. He had a headdress of feathers far superior to that of any Indian chief and his face was painted a dark red. In either hand he held a seven foot spear, which he kept clasping and unclasping nervously as the Duke approached.
Then there were people like the tribesmen from Kairuku, twenty miles out of Port Moresby. They used rather more modern aids. The women were dressed in grass skirts decorated all around with painted kitchen saucers, and their headdresses tied with coloured cloths and feathers would have done credit to Dior. The men wore brilliant yellow g-strings. They had feathers tied up and down their bodies, dogs’ teeth round their necks and their faces shone with yellow, red and green paint - not ochre, but the finest Taubman’s enamel.
The best demonstration came at night in the Government House grounds and the Papuans were there by the thousand. In the half light, in their ceremonial dress, they looked particularly awe inspiring. Some wore fantastically decorated masks. Some had brought their rare headdress of cockatoo and bird of paradise feathers which towered twelve feet above the ground. The women wore little else but grass skirts.
They were all dancing, leaping, shouting, and tribes that were still only slightly removed from the head-hunting stage, were doing their war dances. The Duke, looking very cool in his white evening jacket, walked in and out amongst them. There were no special security measures and any native who wanted to end the reign of ‘No. 2 Boss’ could have done so in the dim light, almost unnoticed.
Then came one of the most fascinating acts of devotion I ever saw on a Royal Tour. In the middle of all the leaping and dancing we noticed a little fellow who was painted to such a degree that he looked like a totem pole. A woman was standing in front of him, face to face. She was doing all the talking and clearly this was a typical case of a husband being told off by his wife. Finally the little man came to a decision, took the lovely yellow gourd he used when chewing betel nut and went straight up to Prince Philip. Grinning a mouth of red-stained teeth, he handed over the gourd as his personal gift. The gourd was kindly accepted, passed along the line for an aide to carry, and the company moved on.
Was the Tour a success? It did prove to local administrators, to patrol officers, and the devoted people who work in that area that Canberra was interested in what they were doing. Otherwise how did Prince Philip come to be there? But publicity was terribly important. With a little luck in that week the whole world could have learned a great deal about an area that Londoners, New Yorkers, and many an Australian hardly knew existed. But just as the Britannia arrived at Port Moresby the British decided to go into Suez. So compared to a first-class world crisis a minor Royal Tour of Papua and New Guinea was of small importance. Stories which might have received a good spread on page one were lucky to make page five, that’s if they got in at all.
Nor did the press party find Prince Philip easy to understand. It was well known that he disliked newspapermen and had little patience with photographers. After all, the Royal Family had endured much in recent years, but when one knows one is thoroughly unloved it is not easy to give back love in return. On this tour no time was specially allotted for the newspapermen and photographers to personally meet the Duke. It may seem absurd to make an issue out of this, but a Royal Tour is basically a public relations venture and publicity should be at least ninety per cent important. If the people who are pumping out the publicity cannot have some personal contact with the object of their writings, then the job becomes harder than ever. Finally we were allotted just ten minutes to meet Prince Philip. This was at the height of the Sing Sing at Government House. We went straight past him at the rate of a quick handshake each. It was nearly dark and in the background there was this fantastic noise of chanting and dancing and beating of drums, as if we were all to be cooked before dawn. If the Duke had anything to say we couldn’t hear him. Very likely all this was just mismanagement by an inexperienced administration, but at the time we took it as an insult.
He worked hard and he set out to enjoy himself, but always he was in complete command. He was independent to the point of stubbornness. He came ashore from the Britannia in an Admiral’s uniform, not over resplendent. Indeed most times he wore a lounge suit. Local officials were worried that this wasn’t enough to impress the natives. After all, they were expecting something wonderful, a King. One official said: ‘If only he would wear something different, anything. A hat covered with feathers would be ideal’ The Duke was firm; he did not change his mind on this.
Noel Hawken of the Melbourne Herald wrote from Port Moresby : 'There’s a clear difference in his manner when he is being just officially placed with something and when he is genuinely delighted. His face brightens and his smile becomes much more personal and direct. He can get a laugh when he wants to. When he was invited to shoot clay pigeons at Koitaki plantation he joked: “Thank-you, but I'll fall over backwards.” His gestures can be rapid. He thrusts both hands deep in his coat pockets in a way most wives don’t like. Normally his voice is quiet, perhaps too quiet in some gatherings. He can ask a question tartly or with the almost casual air of a man asking for a match. Since the tour began I have seen on the Duke’s face only one expression you might call lonely.'
It was true, he could get a laugh when he wanted to, but there were occasions when the joke fell flat or was misunderstood. There was such an occasion at Manus Island. There was the usual greeting line and Prince Philip made his way along, shaking one hand after the other. Then at the end were two priests, slightly apart from the others. The Duke joked: ‘Won’t anyone around here talk to you?’ | Then again one remembers the visit to the war graves cemetery at Port Moresby. A nervous official there was slow in handing him the wreath to put on the memorial and he said sharply: ‘Do you think I'm going to throw it on from over there?’
Another story which was printed, and officially denied, concerned a visit to a native hut. This hut was on stilts and Prince Philip had to climb into it up a ladder. It was a typical hut, very bare, no comforts, with one or two faded pictures from the Woman’s Weekly - on the walls. The Duke said: ‘Hmmm, just like the Britannia.’ It was a joke, but it startled the local officials.
So we toured, Royal progresses, Sing Sings, tours of schools, and almost every night a reception with black tie and white evening jacket. From Manus Island we flew direct to Darwin and the Duke had arrived on Australian soil. He hurried through a hand-shaking reception at Government House and went off on the most talked about crocodile hunt in Northern Territory history. Immediately after the reception he boarded a RAAF crashboat, then at a chosen spot transferred to a smaller launch equipped with a hunter’s spotlight. The party was out from 10.15 p.m. until 4.30 the following morning. They sailed out about ten miles across Darwin harbour and down a thirty foot wide creek. Only one crocodile was seen all night and the Duke shot it, a small croc, less than six feet long. We were told that firing from the bows of a launch at twenty-five foot range with a .303 rifle he shot it between its red eyes, gleaming in the spotlight. He went to Rum Jungle, to Tennant Creek, and for just two and a half hours he paid a flying visit to the great cattle station of Brunette Downs, where he saw cattle being branded in temperatures around 107 degrees. And so he made his way south via Alice Springs for the opening of the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
We saw Prince Philip again in November 1962 at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Perth. Here he was completely informal. He went to all the functions and to all the Games venues. Often he would slip out of Government House quietly, dispensing altogether with motor cycle escorts. He would tell the chauffeur to move over and drive himself. When other drivers tooted him he would toot back with the rather more distinguished toot of the Rolls Royce. He would drive efficiently, but at a cracking pace. One time he left some of his entourage far behind, and panicking, they went through a red light to catch up. Prince Philip warned them this was not to happen again. Traffic rules had to be obeyed when he was driving.
There was another little chapter in the long Prince Philip-and-the-photographers story. The important chapter was in 1959 when the photographers were drenched by the sprinklers at the Chelsea Flower Show in London. Buckingham Palace published a denial that it was Prince Philip who pushed the button of the electronic sprays, but photographers everywhere never forgot.
On 28 November at the Games, Australian photographers set out for their revenge. Prince Philip was visting the Commonwealth Games village, calling at the recreation hut. The photographers knew the exact course he would take. They dragged over a sprinkler and fixed it like a land mine. As Prince Philip came out of the hut they stood around the tap. He spotted them at once and smiling, he said: ‘Don’t you dare turn that bloody thing on. Nobody will ever believe that I didn’t turn on the last one.”
One photographer replied: ‘We were just tossing up to see who was game enough to give it a go.’
Perth was not terribly shocked that Prince Philip had used the word ‘bloody’ in public. The only comment came from Mr H. R. Fitch, a minister with the Church of Christ, who issued a direct challenge to Prince Philip to justify the use of this swear word. He put his challenge in a letter to the West Australian and also wrote personally to the Duke. The Duke did not reply.
And so came the summer and autumn of 1963. Once again we received our bound Royal Tour books. This one was labelled Programme for the Visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, 18th February to 27th March 1963. This was an easier tour with a special trip to the north and north-west to the great outback which the Queen had not seen before. Also there were few stop-overs at Government Houses. Much use was to be made of the 'Britannia' as a sort of floating Buckingham Palace, where she could go into retreat, away from it all. The booklet gave useful information like the sunrise and sunset every day, potted information on every town to be visited and the correct dress to be worn for every function. The page on dress was quite interesting. It read:
“The suggested dress to be worn is indicated by the following symbols: UI Ceremonial Uniform with sword, decorations and medals. ED Evening Dress — White Tie and Decorations. DJ Dinner Jacket — Black Tie. (T) Tiara. SBC Short Black Coat. Striped Trousers. LS Lounge Suit. TR Territory Rig — Soft White Shirt Long Sleeves — Tie — Light Weight Trousers — No Coat. FMD Long Black Coat — Grey Vest — Striped Trousers.
On the tour we suffered a good deal of DJ, almost entirely LS, a reasonable amount of TR, and shrank utterly from ED, SBC and FMD. Right from the start the Tour did not have the same exciting, electric atmosphere of 1963. Word had come from New Zealand that things were different. The strongest reports first began to appear in the English newspapers. The London Daily Express said the Queen looked pale, wan and tired and the Auckland man insinuated the tour was virtually a flop. The London Daily Mail man immediately lashed back, saying that the Queen was having a ball and made it clear, no doubt to the embarrassment of the Express, that everything was fine. English reporters on Royalty have all the throat cutting capacity of English reporters on cricket. The truth of it was that the New Zealand tour was slightly below par.
On top of this came the depressing, damp arrival in Canberra with its limp, small crowd on the tarmac. It was cold and wretched. The crowd was estimated at 3,000, compared to the 20,000 who turned out for the King and Queen of Thailand. A joke went around the Canberra sophisticates concerning Mr Skripov, the Russian diplomat who had just left in a hurry as a result of a spying charge. Mr Skripov was alleged to have said: ‘Actually I have one terrible regret about leaving Canberra at this stage . . . I'll miss seeing the Queen.'
Certainly on an official basis no expense was spared to make the Royal arrival a success. Over 170,000 plants were put in for Her Majesty to observe; for the reception at Parliament House every ladies’ lavatory received a new title ‘Powder Room’ and at the Prime Minister’s Lodge a remarkable decoration was placed up in the trees. It was a koala and kangaroo made out of wire and papier mache covered in plastic, and there were bulbous eyes that lit up in the dark.
Prince Philip was very different from the man who came out in 1956. He went out of his way to be friendly to the Royal Tour reporters. He told them he would answer questions on anything, and he stressed particularly that he DID NOT mind meeting officials, he DID NOT mind shaking hands or listening to speeches. He enjoyed it. It was his job. The social writers too ran their keen eyes over him with some admiration. His figure was still excellent, and contrary to some reports he still had plenty of fine blond hair. The Queen too was very charming, more confident, easier to talk to than in 1954 and on seeing her close up one knew at once that the TV cameras had been savagely cruel.
The State Reception on the first night was a brilliant affair and Sir Robert Menzies became very sentimental, and at the sight of his Queen began to quote the poetry of Thomas Ford: 'There is a lady sweet and kind Was never face so pleased my mind; I did but see her passing by And yet I love her ’til I die.’
As Vincent Mulchrone reported to the 'Daily Mail' '...a slight national shudder might have been detected on the seismographs at Woomera’.
But the people of Canberra did turn out this time. They massed outside Parliament House right through until nearly midnight. Children were there in pyjamas and some families jumped the barrier and surged towards the Queen, until they were driven back. Then a remarkable thing happened for the usually tightlipped Canberra crowd — quite spontaneously they gave the Queen three cheers.
The Commonwealth made it an excellent evening. There was turkey, chicken, duckling, squab, golden pheasant — all with exotic names. One of them was named Fow! Prince Philip in Aspic. It was a dish that could have had a better title and one felt like a cannibal when eating it.
The first major city for the Tour was Adelaide and there was no doubt about the reception here. It caused some of the most remarkable scenes I have seen on any Royal Tour. On 20 February there was the Garden Party in the Botanic Gardens. There were 9,500 people present which made it undoubtedly the biggest garden party since Nero entertained the Christians, although just possibly there were more Christians present on that occasion. For anyone interested In mass crowd behaviour, it was most interesting. Almost at the one time a curious mystic passion possessed seventy-five per cent of the women there. No matter how, no matter what, they had to get close to the Queen, perhaps even touch her.
The Queen was due at 4 pm, and for two hours the crowds massed along the paths of the gardens where she was scheduled to walk. Then finally when she did arrive, they swarmed. Indeed they crowded in all around the Queen and Prince Philip, leaving only a circle of two or three yards. The police had to lock arms to keep back the garden party guests.
The women homed in around the Queen in such a crush that the scene was like a stop-work meeting out in the Domain. The ladies sprinted across the flower beds, they dashed through the sprinklers, - their stiletto heels sank up to the scabbards in compost. Oh! the damage that was done to the begonias and the salvia splendens. The thing to do was to grab a chair and some of these were stolen - virtually from under the bottoms of gentlemen in marquees. The Adelaide ladies took off their shoes and used the seats for a mobile, grandstand. Perhaps this sounds hard to believe, but some women actually climbed trees. Just for the benefit of history I took the name of one of the trees that supported female viewers in their party dresses at the Adelaide garden party. It was a Kaffir boom tree.
When the Royal party did manage to make their way through the gardens the ladies picked up their chairs and ran. The detectives looked strained and at times the Royal press secretary, Commander Colville, looked definitely angry. Yet the Queen took it very well. She battled her way through with heroic British courage. Although one could say she didn’t exactly overstay her time at the Adelaide party. Yet after the hurly burly of the garden party Adelaide did one thing extremely well. This was the Royal Music Festival and it was an imaginative, beautifully organized event. That night at 9.30 p.m. there must have been 100,000 people at Elder Park and around the bank of the Torrens Lake. There were two choirs, each of 2,000 singers on raised pre-fabricated stands more than sixty feet high. The timing was perfect. Until the moment came to sing the choirs were hidden in the darkness and one wouldn’t have known they were there. Suddenly the lights came on. The grandstands were a wall of lights and the choirs, all in white were singing their arias. There were coloured fountains in the water, lights along the bridges, and a grand parade of fifty coloured boats. The big moment was the arrival of the Queen and Prince Philip. They came down the river on the Royal barge and this looked tremendous.
The Queen sat at the rear of the barge raised high on a crimson throne. She wore her white lace evening gown, studded with crystals, diamonds and pearls. She had on her diamond tiara also. Imagine this under a spotlight, how it all sparkled. The cheers came from the crowd all the way down the river. The barge drew up at the wharf. The Queen and Prince Philip stepped ashore on to a red carpet to be greeted by the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford. Never was there a more spectacular event on a Royal tour.
Melbourne was different. The crowds never really turned out. One Melbourne newspaper, believing that nothing had changed since 1954, sent a reporter to spend the night on the wharf just to get those human interest stories on how the crowds spent the long hours waiting for the Britannia. This was a perfectly reasonable assignment. After all, the crowds would sleep for a week outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground before a football final.
The sad truth was this: The reporter had a hideously lonely night. He saw not another soul until 7 am. The message came, too, from Melbourne’s churches. At the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon in the Wesley Church, Mr Harold Holt, from the pulpit, said the crowds were not exuberant enough and the Rev Irving Benson urged everyone to get out and see the Queen. I believed then, and I still do, that crowds were down on this Royal Tour largely because of television. Every appearance of the Queen, from beginning to end, was there to be seen on television. This was the difference from her last Royal Tour. In 1954 there was no TV and the curiosity value of it all was immense.
But what was the point of standing for hours on a street corner, often in the rain, when all could be seen more comfortably, and with much greater clarity on TV? One felt that if the Government wanted great crowds on the streets to wave to the monarch then they would have to follow the lead of the football, racing and other sporting bodies and ban TV, limit it only to ‘the last quarter’, so to speak. There was only one flaw in this argument. The visit to Flemington. Here everything was perfect. The day was gorgeous, utterly made for fair ladies and bookmakers’ pockets. Perhaps Flemington had never looked so lovely, the roses, petunias, salvia and what not, were in full bloom. The best horses in Australia were on show, Wenona Girl, Aquanita, Sky High, Kilshery, just to mention a few. To top it all off there was the Queen’s visit, and the VRC had banned the TV cameras. Yet only 37,500 people turned up, 7,000 less than for the Queen Mother and that meeting was telecast. |
The VRC was terribly shocked. The Committee had gone to so much trouble to make it a good day. One feature was the special boudoir they had arranged for the Queen. It was the committee’s private room. There was carpet on the floor, a telephone, everything laid on. But the nice touch was the way they hid the men’s urinal. It was panelled off as in a cupboard. One would really have to know the room to realize it was there.
It would be terribly unfair to say that Melbourne crowds ignored the Queen, but they did not turn out with the same passion as before. The eagerest of beavers were the matrons of fiftyish or over. Their Queen-watching propensities were undiminished. It was the young people who were more blasé. In Hobart the crowds turned out, but not until ten minutes before the Queen was due to arrive. There was one marvellous scene at the Hobart Town Hall. The Royal entourage arrived a full ten minutes ahead of schedule. So we had the splendid sight of the Right Honourable Alderman B. Osborne, chain jangling, robes streaming, sprinting round to the front steps to get there before the Rolls Royce.
The big event for Tasmania was the Royal Hobart Regatta. A taxi driver told us modestly that the regatta was the greatest annual event in the Southern Hemisphere. Maybe he was right. In a town of 118,000 people, it consistently drew crowds of 90,000. The honorary secretary of the Regatta Association, Mr R. F. Mullins, told us it had been held every year in Hobart for 125 years. The regatta originally was started by the Governor, Sir John Franklin, to patch up his rather unfortunate relations with the town folk. This was the first opportunity that the common people had to mix with the quality and it became known as ‘people’s day’. Mr Mullins was a little annoyed with all the other organizations, including the Soviet Union, that had stolen the name.
Indeed it proved that natural local functions like a major horse race, an agricultural show, a music festival, always provided the best functions of the tour, not artificial displays especially put on for Royalty. So the Regatta with its yacht races, speedboat races and swimming, provided one of the better days of the tour. Although many of us wondered what the Royal party thought of the battalion of marching girls. The English press gentlemen were shocked to the depths of their typewriters — they had never seen this phenomenon. They felt that Australia was in for a ghastly upsurge of female militance.
So the Tour continued, to Sydney, to Brisbane through the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Duke fished for trout at Gungahlia Stream and there was another one of those ‘typical Australian bush picnics’ at Scammel’s Lookout with a view over the valley to Mount Townsend, Twynam and Carruther’s Peak. On the menu were barbecued steak, chops and sausages. And there was billy tea made from an honest-to-goodness blackened bush billy and gum tips were added. There were such refinements as a table cloth, knives and forks and a canopy overhead made from plaited fern and bracken. The aides said that the guests queued up for lunch but, of course, the Queen and Prince Philip were first in the queue. Ants and all wild life were kept at bay and although the area was not sprayed, the flies knew their place and did not appear. A marquee was erected specially for the cooking and fire extinguishers were clipped to the trees.
Scammel’s Lookout has taken on quite a bit of tone since. Forever after it will be known as the place where the Queen and Prince Philip chose to have their Australian picnic. The official climax of the tour came on Tuesday, 12 March, the occasion of the celebration of the founding and naming of Canberra. It took place at a pre-fabricated building on the lawn in front of Parliament House. There was another curious anniversary associated with this day. Tactfully no newspapers reported it, and nobody mentioned it beforehand. The first Royal Tour was in the year 1867, the tour of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, aged twenty-two, the second son of Queen Victoria. He had fair hair, a good forehead, a good nose, and he, too, was a fine-looking young man. This Duke of Edinburgh came out as captain of HMS 'Galatea'. All the nonsense was no different then. There were school demonstrations, fetes, levees, tree plantings, foundation stone layings, military reviews - he endured them all. Towards the end of the tour he went to Clontarf, New South Wales, for a corroboree. At the height of the playing of a didjeridoo an Irishman named Henry James O’Farrell got close to the young Duke and shot him in the back, felling him to the ground. Fortunately it was only a flesh wound and the Duke recovered. There was much controversy over this. Many people considered that O’Farrell was mentally deranged and for 1867 there was sophisticated argument over whether it was morally right to punish him. The punishers won and O’Farrell was executed.
But the intriguing point was that the Duke of Edinburgh was shot on 12 March, the very anniversary of the day that his namesake was taking part in the anniversary of Canberra. The second Duke of Edinburgh survived but there were some uneasy feelings that day. At the anniversary celebration Mr Menzies, who was to become Sir Robert Menzies within a few hours, was very sentimental once again. He tossed away his prepared speech and looking directly at the Queen, he said: 'The year 2000 is a little way off a little after my own time but not after yours. I look forward to the notion of my own descendants in 2000 standing up and drinking your health — still the Queen — older but richer than ever in the love of your people.’
It was very interesting to watch Sir Robert. When he looked at his Queen this was the one time that the tough old politician became warm, emotional and tender. There was not the slightest doubt that afternoon how his feelings lay. As for the Queen she, too, 'looked more vivacious, happier and at ease when she was with him.
After Canberra the tour ceased to be as formal; particularly we remember the lunch for sixty at the Stuart Arms Hotel in Alice Springs. It was a very happy, easy-going lunch. Just as the Northern Territory Administrator, Mr Nott, rose to speak, there was a great deal of talking. One person banged the table, others called SSSSHHHH — to no effect. Then Colonel Lionel Rose, a famous character at the Alice and a member of the Legislative Council, turned round and roared: 'SHUT UP!'
It had the required effect. Everybody did indeed shut up. And the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Michael Adeane, leaned over to Colonel Rose and said: ‘Good show, old boy'
In a letter to the Centralian Advocate, the Rev Colin Ford, senior minister of the United Church in Central Australia said: ‘It is one thing for a man to act with extreme discourtesy in the presence of the Queen, but it is quite another matter if that person subtly twists facts in such a way as to discredit others in an effort to exonerate himself.” As for the Colonel, he said: “The mob were babbling and drinking while the Administrator was trying to propose the toast to the Queen. Something had to be done, so I got to my feet, and said two words: “shut up” and they shut up.’
Friday afternoon, 15 March, was heavily labelled in the Alice Springs programme ‘No Engagements’ but everyone in Alice had known for three months that the Queen and Prince Philip would make an ‘unscheduled visit' to Hamilton Downs, a cattle station of 350 square miles, 60 miles out of Alice. At the Downs it had rained hardly at all in seven years. The earth was red and dry and the property looked like the other side of the moon. The station homestead was made entirely of galvanized iron, walls as well as roof. Good timber is expensive around Alice and, besides, galvanized iron discourages the white ants.
The Royal party set out just after lunch in a temperature nigh on 100 degrees. The Rolls Royce was considered too precious to go bouncing over the paddocks, so the Queen and the Prince travelled in a Pontiac and the safari of seven Humbers trailed behind. The red dust heaved up choking clouds and it was impossible to see the car in front.
The Queen’s hosts were Mr Damian Miller, DFC, formerly of the RAAF, and Mr Pat Davis, co-owners. They took the Royal party three miles across the mulga flats to where ten aboriginal stockmen were waiting with 300 shorthorns. The stockmen looked, perhaps, a little too polished — they were all issued with brand-new shirts and trousers the day before. But how they could ride! They made Mat Dillon’s men look like the Hyde Park junior riding school. On one occasion a straggler went straight for the Royal party. The stockmen, hollering and using their whips, headed off the steer just twenty yards from them. It was quite a show.
Everywhere the Queen and Prince Philip toured in the north the reception was tremendous. Here there was no TV, and they had not been here before. If one could give an accolade to Australia’s most loyal town then it would be Katherine in the centre of the Northern Territory. Katherine’s normal population is 600. Well, 1,500 people, more than twice the population, turned out to see the Queen at the airport. Then, although they knew her visit was confined only to the airport, this is what they did. They decorated the whole town and they put up a great EIIR sign on the local cemetery. There was no fearful symbolism in this; it was just that the cemetery fence was very useful for that sort of thing. Then they closed both pubs on the Saturday afternoon, an honour never before accorded to a visitor to Katherine. You have to appreciate that the races are broadcast on Saturday afternoons and to close the pubs is a deathly serious matter.
On Sunday, 17 March, the Royal party flew to Kununurra in Western Australia to inspect the Ord River scheme. Just to give you some idea what is involved in running a Royal Tour it is worth while looking at what happened at Kununurra. The Queen and the Duke were there for just 100 minutes. Kununurra had only an earthen runway. This had to be lengthened by 1,000 feet to coincide with the Royal Visit. But that wasn’t all: to cater for such important visitors the Department of Civil Aviation had to fly in twenty technicians to provide all the proper facilities. It flew in all the necessary navigation and safety devices, including a power plant to run them. When the Queen touched down at the airstrip she was guided in by a control tower specially built for the occasion and two fully equipped fire tenders overlanded from Melbourne via Alice Springs were waiting in case her Convair aircraft, or the other Convair sent as a stand by, ran into trouble. At least six other official aircraft preceded or followed the Royal aircraft in. Then a RAAF Hercules flew an air-conditioned Pontiac which was there ready and waiting for the Queen on the tarmac. Furthermore an air-conditioning plant, also Hercules transported, arrived to hook up to her aircraft to keep it cool while she was looking at the Ord in a temperature of 102 degrees.
Everything that could be done was done to make the visit to the Ord exciting. For example the Queen and Prince Philip saw two crocodiles. The disappointing feature was that both were dead. As she walked across the top of the weir at the river diversion dam, the resident engineer, Mr R. A. Hamilton pointed out the two crocodiles. One, about eight feet long, appeared to be sunning himself on the rock, the other, maybe six feet long, was at the water’s edge. When the sluice gates were opened immediately the big crocodile was washed off its perch and was not seen again. The other, on the bank, was slowly immersed, then, as it drifted out, it rolled over with its paws up in the air. A workman at the site admitted that he shot both crocodiles the night before.
Later we learned that the Queen hadn’t been over impressed by this mock realism.
The Royal party flew back to Darwin where the Britannia was waiting. They sailed down the coast to Perth, emplaned for Sydney and flew off home on 27 March. Did they enjoy it? Of course they did, and particularly the northern part of the trip. Both were more mature than last time, particularly Prince Philip. He was very different from that tour of 1956 and he tried desperately hard to make the tour a success. The Queen was charming, poised, infinitely patient, but it was the Duke who always reacted and performed better in public. An example of this was the occasion of the rather witty narration of Canberra’s history at the jubilee. We were told of the fearful interstate rivalry and the battle to find a name. One inspired gentleman suggested that the name should combine all the State capitals with the result ‘Syd-mel-ad-per-bris-ho’. The Duke threw back his head and laughed at this. The Queen remained unsmiling. The photographers, too, complained. Time and again, at the crucial moment, the Queen would fail to smile or look in the wrong direction. They don’t suggest there was anything deliberate in this, she just didn’t have a natural gift for appearing before cameras like her mother. One occasion which made them almost weep was the opening of the Royal Children’s Hospital. If only the Queen had picked up a baby. Maybe it wouldn’t have been correct, maybe it’s something that monarchs simply do not do, but what an act of a mother, and what a picture. It would have hit front pages all around the world. Am I being critical? Every newspaperman on the tour had the greatest respect for her, for her devotion to duty, and for the interest she took in everything. In all personal contacts, in all occasions where people were presented to her personally, the Queen was completely warm and friendly; it was just those public appearances that were sometimes stiff.
According to officials on the tour this was the last of its kind. In future tours would be even more brief for such events as the opening of the Sydney Opera House, a Melbourne Cup or a major anniversary. After all, she made only about four public appearances a year in London for events like Royal Ascot, the Guildhall, Trooping of the Colour, opening of Parliament and such. She didn’t go on grand parades through the provinces. However, I wonder. Somebody at Whitehall will decide that it is necessary to show the flag around the Commonwealth, a loyal Prime Minister will feel that a Royal Visit could be just the thing in an election year. Yes, I think we will see many more Royal Tours yet.