My Memory of Meeting Prince Philip
by Stephen Thair
Like most of the nation, following the passing of the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 9th April, Probus Club of Basingstoke member Stephen Thair was sure that he was not the only member with reminiscences of this man who had been present throughout his life. One memory was from many years ago and in a far-off land.
“I was fortunate to meet him briefly on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Tour of the Commonwealth in 1977, when I was working as a Barrister and Solicitor in the Department of Justice, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea” explained Stephen. “With my wife, Margaret, we had arrived there In April 1975, and so were able to watch some of the ceremonies when the country achieved independence in September that year, when Prince Charles came to do the honours, so to speak.”
At the time of the Silver Jubilee Tour, he was running a Junior Scout Troup of mainly expatriate boys (the PNG equivalent of a Cub Pack) with another leader, an Australian Scouter called Geoff. The final engagement of the Queen and Prince Philip in Papua New Guinea before they left for the next leg of their journey was to inspect an assembly of PNG Scouts and Guides. They were lined up for the royal inspection in a giant horse-shoe on the Murray Barracks’ parade ground in Port Moresby, with the Guides forming one side of the horse-shoe, and the Scouts the other.
The Scouts and Guides being well-organised were all in position for 11am, when the inspection was due to commence, with the pipe band of the Pacific Islands Regiment behind them. However, 11am came and went, with no sign of the royal party. The tropical sun rose ever higher in the sky over the parade ground, and it was, to say the least, very hot. Eventually, at around midday, the Queen and Prince Philip and their escort arrived. The Pacific Islands Regiment band began to play, and the Queen and Prince Philip began their inspections, accompanied in each case by the great and the good of PNG Guiding and Scouting.
“Our troop was in line with me at one end of it, and Geoff at the other end. We had other Scout Groups either side of us. Prince Philip and his party were about two groups away from us on the inspection, when the boy standing next to Geoff fainted because of the heat, and Geoff had to carry him off to the shade of a tree where fortunately he revived. However, by then Prince Philip had arrived at our Group, and so Geoff missed out, and I was the only representative for him to speak to.”
“Prince Philip asked me what I was doing in the country and when I had explained, he asked if I was enjoying it – which I was – and then moved on. He was perfectly pleasant to me. I had been a bit anxious as my father had told me a story of a solicitor friend of his who had been introduced to Prince Philip at an event of some kind, and when he replied to a question from Prince Philip as to what he did, received the comment “Oh no, not another b* * * * y solicitor!”.
Thus, another interesting PNG experience drew to a close. Stephen always felt marginally guilty that Geoff missed out on a Prince Philip encounter, although in fairness it could just as easily have been the boy next to him who fainted!