Memories of the royal visit to the Bay
By Doug Laing
With the announcement of Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip’s withdrawal from Royal duties, a Royal public appearance schedule dating back more than 60 of his 95 years has sparked memories of his two visits to Hawke’s Bay.
He and Queen Elizabeth II visited Hawke’s Bay for two days in January 1954, during the Coronation Tour, and for a few hours in February 1964, marking the 10th anniversary of her succession to the throne.
Prince Philip was not with the Queen when she made a similarly brief visit to Hawke’s Bay to open the new Wairoa town bridge SH2 bridge on February 7, 1990, a month before the second anniversary of the previous bridge’s destruction in Cyclone Bola.
She also had a brief walk through the people on Napier’s Marine Parade, in a tour otherwise focused on the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland and sesqui-centennial celebrations marking 150 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.
In the first visit by Prince Philip, the Royals were a fortnight into a 39-day tour, the first of New Zealand by a reigning British monarch and which was interrupted by the Tangiwai rail disaster that killed 151 people in the central North Island on Christmas Eve.
Having attended a state funeral and memorial in Wellington, Prince Philip rejoined the tour in which he and the Queen arrived in Napier on a flight from Gisborne on January 6, 1954, stayed at the Masonic Hotel, and left the province two days later on the Royal Train bound for Palmerston North.
It was a much more fleeting visit on February 10, 1964, when the couple arrived on the Royal Yacht Britannia which berthed at the Port of Napier at 9.45am, and left just over 9 hours later, farewelled by an estimated 10,000 people as the 126-metres vessel sailed for Wellington, escorted by the Navy frigate Otago.
Yesterday, it was the latter visit that was recalled by retired Hastings orchardist Colin Wake, whose family hosted the Royals for about an hour at Hillview Orchard in St George’s Rd, between Hastings and Havelock North.
Their tour of the orchard and its then-modern packing facilities lasted about an hour, despite the tight schedule which had started with a welcome by Napier Mayor Peter Tait and a walk on Napier’s Marine Parade, a service at St Paul’s Church in Napier, and a McLean Park ceremony presenting the third set of colours to the Hawke’s Bay Regiment, of which the Duke was Colonel-in-Chief, through its alliance with the Duke of
Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment, and one of over 700 honorary titles and positions he has held.
The orchard was apparently first call in Hastings, followed by a stop at the Memorial Library for a welcome from Hastings Mayor Ron Giorgi, a meeting with school prefects at Hastings Boys High School, and a return to the Britannia, where a select group of about 30 included the Mayors and representatives of the school prefects, Hastings Boys High School head boy Kim Jarvis and HGHS head girl Linda Farrell.
Mr Wake, who had done an apprenticeship as a mechanic in Hastings before returning to the property to work in 1962, said parents Archie and Doris had seen, but not met, the Queen and Prince Philip as they rode the Royal Carriage on Whitehall to the opening of the British parliament in November 1963.
They were at the time unaware of the possibility they might be meeting the couple less than three months later, the news being received in their absence by son Graeme and conveyed as they arrived in Auckland.
Mr Wake, now living beside a Riverslea Rd block run by the family and now leased to Freshco, said the 16-hectares Hillview, orchard, shed, home and surrounds, was always well kept, but life spun into a tizz making sure it was already for the big occasion.
He painted the packing shed in the heat of a Hawke’s Bay summer, and his mother tended the roses and other parts of an immaculate garden. “It was really looking a picture,” he said.
On the day, the Royals swept in with an array of “black machinery” – two Rolls Royces and a Ford Galaxy among them – and a team of security staff.
The visit was not open to the public, many lining the street road outside to be among the tens of thousands of people who would see the Queen and Duke during the tour.
Even Mr Wake had to have a Royal Tour pass, signed by a “commissioned” officer of the police, to allow him to be on the family’s own property, where he would line up as the Royals alighted, and were introduced by Minister of Internal Affairs Sir Leon Gotz, in sequence to Archie and Doris, Graeme Wake and wife Judith, Colin Wake and wife Betty, and brother-in-law Noel Congdon and wife Elaine (nee Wake).
“I’m not in favour of (New Zealand becoming) a republic. I don’t think they were even offered an apple.”
There was another who did not shake hands, in Colin and Betty’s first child, Gary, who was born a month later and who now works part-time for Freshco.
Archie Wake accompanied the Queen around the property while Graeme Wake accompanied Prince Philip, later recalling the intelligent questions and interest they showed in the orchard, its produce and systems. They showed particular interest in the fact that Archie and Doris Wake had seen them in London so recently, and that Mr Congdon was heading to London soon afterwards as a New Zealand Department of Agriculture horticultural superintendent.
Among those who met the Royals was fruit grader Bessie Hollier, who features in one of the day’s many photographs, with Prince Philip as she sorted the fruit in the packing shed.
“It was quite a frantic tizz,” said Mr Wake, who was 25 at the time. “It was a great occasion.”
One with long-lasting impressions, saying yesterday he likes the “pomp and ceremony that goes with the Royal Tour, and adds: “I’m not in favour of (New Zealand becoming) a republic.”
“I don’t think they were even offered an apple,” he said, but a tray was delivered to HMY Britannia by Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers Association president Russell Robertson at the Port, where the huge crowd included a concert party from St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College.
Archie Wake commented at the time to a Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune reporter: “As soon as the Queen stepped from her car, I knew it was going to be good – an easy visit.”
It perhaps also served as a 1960s advertisement to the qualities of sunny Hawke’s Bay, alongside the events of the following day as the Britannia berthed the following day at Princes Wharf in Wellington, with the visit in the capital rearranged because of the weather.
A “whipping northerly,” it was reported.
Photo captions –
PRINCE IN TOWN: Retired Hastings orchardist Colin Wake with a photo of Prince Philip and fruit grader Bessie Hollier during the Royal visit to Hillview Orchard in 1964.
MEMORIES: A selection of photos taken during the royal visit.