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Royal Visit of 1953-54

Page 8 – Remembering the royals

Memories of the royal visit 1953-54


I remember the Queen's visit to Whangarei, Northland. I was about 6 years of age then and the Royal Party was staying at the Grand Hotel. In the evening our family walked - about 20 minutes or so - to the Hotel and with many others chanted, "We want the Queen, we want the Queen" This had no response, (they were most probably having dinner) so the chant changed to "We want the Duke, we want the Duke". This seemed to work as they soon appeared on the balcony to the loud cheers of the crowd. I was sitting on my father's shoulders so had a great view. I remember they looked very happy, and there was a wonderful feeling in the crowd. I understand the name of the Hotel was changed from the Commercial to the Grand for the visit and the balcony was decorated.

Margaret Lomas


I was eighteen and a member of a marching team, one of the many at the Domain in Auckland, assembled in blocks with lots of other young peoples organisations, in the centre field waiting for our queen to arrive...we were greatly excited at this opportunity to see Royals in person. While we were waiting, my Scots friend, also about eighteen, sat and explained to me why she as a Scot would not, could not, feel excited about Elizabeth as she was not, in reality, HER Queen let alone Queen Elizabeth II as true Scots had never even recognised the first Elizabeth ........etc. etc.

Finally, Elizabeth arrived and I, looking at her with curiosity, saw her look back at us as Philip said ..and you could see what he was saying ..., "Who are they?" and her reply that we were, "marching teams." Unheard of in Britain and at that time unique to NZ. I can only think that that conversation between them had the effect of unleashing some sort of latent emotion because my Scots chum emitted what can only be described as a throaty roar of patriotism, wonderful in its intensity and then charged like a wounded bull out of our designated area, trying to barge like an All Black through another block of people in front to get even closer. I ran after her, half concerned that she was going to commit regicide and half envious of such a loud voice compared to my squeaks. I caught up with her and we bounced up and down then, puffing and yelling, the only way to catch another glimpse. The noise was deafening, the sun hot and our queen moved regally on. The moment had passed. Excited discussion of our first glimpse of Royals in the flesh, history being made and didn't we get up close? and did you hear what she said, she recognised that we were marching teams and wasn't she beautiful, much more beautiful in the flesh and we might be able to get another look at her if we break ranks (as if we hadn't already) and run across to the back where she hasn't been yet. All of this from my Scots friend!!

Caroline Woon

I remember the Queen's visit in 1953 quite vividly... I remember that we spent the evening of her Coronation laying new carpet in the living room and then spent the night on mattresses strewn on top of the new carpet listening to the broadcast. During the broadcast we got the additional news that Edmund Hillary had climbed Mount Everest; a sort of Coronation present for the new Queen.

When the Queen and Prince Phillip arrived in December, I was working along with my Mother and her old Aunts...who owned a small shoe store on Karangahape Rd, near Queen St. So we were able to put some chairs outside the store front on Karangahape Rd and stand on them well above the rest of the crowd and watch the motorcade drive along Karangahape Rd. I remember that the Queen did not look quite real, as her facial makeup was quite stunning, and she showed not a blemish, but all her youthful vitality. Although not really much of a Royalist, I was very moved by seeing Her Majesty, and wished her well in her new task. It was but a few seconds glimpse but one that will last a lifetime.

I remember that while in Auckland the Queen made a visit to the Auckland Hospital near the Domain. The itinerary organisers evidently deduced that if everything went according to plan, Her Majesty was going to be in need of a 'comfort stop' while at the hospital, so the planners had outfitted an appropriately stationed lavatory with a cushioned toilet seat covered in a Tartan cloth; most assuredly the correct pattern too. As it turned out, her Majesty did not seek the use of the facilities while at the hospital, so once she had left the premises, all the young doctors and interns and other staff at the hospital, had some fun having their pictures taken while sitting on the tartan padded Royal 'Throne'....Then the Tangiwai rail disaster to the midnight Christmas train put a ghastly pall over the visit, and it was never quite the same after that.

George E. Smith
Cupoertino, California

I must have been about five and it was probably my first visit to Auckland from the district of Piako on the Hauraki Plains - Waitoa to be precise, where my parents were dairy farmers. I have several memories of my visit to Auckland - the main one being dragged along Waterloo Quadrant (I think) by my mother as the Queen went past in her car. I was clutching my little NZ flag but fell over the curb at the point when the Queen actually passed.... It was a momentous occasion for a little girl - the main memory, besides falling over at the crucial time, was the varied forms of transport I was introduced to - the Gothic, trams, trolley buses and the Devonport ferry.

Allison Oosterman

We fluttered into the lunchroom, a group of giddy teenagers, excited beyond belief to the blase world of today, because The Queen would be arriving in New Zealand the following morning.

'Greeting Her Maj are we?' Mr Wigg, a teller at the BNZ Queen Street where we worked was buffing his shoes, eyes twinkling above his glasses as he held the brush aloft. It has only occurred to me now, nearly fifty years later to wonder why the gentleman in question had need to clean his shoes. More of interest was his temerity in addressing Our Queen in this way.

Greet her we surely did. The next day most shops and businesses in Queen Street were closed, some facades boarded up in case of crowd pressure. My father was employed by the Auckland Harbour Board, and early we boarded the first tram bustling along Great South Road, dad, my mother, little sister and me. Seats were allotted at Princes Wharf for Harbour Board staff to be there when The Queen stepped on to New Zealand soil for the first time. We arrived armed with thermos, mugs, sandwiches and cushions, then when Sir Sidney Holland Prime Minister, and other dignitaries arrived to greet the royal party. My folks - staunch National party supporters - bravely cheered.

'There she is! A mere wee quainie' remarked my Scottish dad. The Queen did indeed look disarmingly youthful, but quite lovely. Her dress was citrus lemon, bright, clear with tucks at the sleeve and around the skirt. She waved, smiled and after the handshakes climbed into a bubble-topped limousine.

'An orchid beneath cellophane' enthused the Auckland Star that evening.

We had to return to work at midday. The boarding up of windows had proved unnecessary, for indeed many folk had stayed away from lining the streets that first morning for fear of the crowds. But there were crowds - everywhere for the next few days, and believe me, Auckland bristled with an excitement that the new generations could never hope to understand.

'As The Queen is coming to Auckland I think we should all have decorated Christmas trees on our verandas'. Our neighbour approached us all prior to the all-important visit, and we duly obliged with colourfully bedecked trees.

No big deal? Ah yes, it was for us. Remember the war hadn't been over for all that long, and this was an occasion for genuine festivity.

'The Queen is here - really here with us!' From the tramcar as it rattled cheerfully up Anzac Avenue, I gazed at old Government House where the Queen was staying. To this seventeen year old it was hard to believe that for a time she would actually be living with us, in the same country...

For me, no subsequent visit has held quite the same magic. In 1953 the time was magical, special, and I find difficulty expressing emotions that this initial visit engendered.

'She hardly saw it - she was driven over it so quickly!' sadly remarked one lady. Children in Henderson had toiled to make a floral carpet over which Her Majesty was to be driven. But who worried? The kids had a great time. I tell you, a lot of love and effort from small-time New Zealanders went into that tour, and nationally we were the better for it.

And the dress? Dressmaking pattern companies lost little time issuing a pattern for that special dress. My mother sewed one for me, not lemon, but floral, and I felt great to be wearing it.

PS The Duke of Edinburgh came too.

Alison Masters

I can recall being part of school group from Point Chevalier Primary going to the Auckland Domain and lining up in large blocks so the Queen could drive up and down between the rows. I can still remember the Queen standing and waving as she drove past. It is hard to believe that this was nearly fifty years ago.

Graeme Howard

The first Royal Visit by the Queen was the icing on the cake. As twelve year olds we had been awestruck by the Coronation film; we had drawn pictures of coach after coach, with our versions of the Queen in her regalia, and even made peg dolls dressed in bits of velvet, trimmed with cotton wool, for a competition at school.

In those days, Otahuhu had well kept houses and beautiful plane trees lining both sides of the Great South Road between the Monument and the Tamaki Bridge. The trees made an ideal spot to wait in the shade for the magical moment when the Queen flashed by. Prince Philip would be with her of course, but he didn't count. The Queen was tops.

We were there long before she was due, and I had my wee "Brownie" camera ready. The Otahuhu Borough Council had decorated all the wooden lamp posts with the town badge and fern fronds. Oh the excitement of it all! The Royal car with an open top came down the road at last. We all waved and cheered madly; I aimed my camera, and when the film was developed, I had a lovely shot of an Otahuhu badge on a lamp post!!

Carolyn Johnston Rhodes

I met the Queen on December 26th 1953 at the Wilson Home for Crippled Children. I was a patient there at the time. I was 5 years old. I gave her a posy of flowers on behalf of all the children and staff. I remember thinking, what a nice hat she was wearing and she was really pretty.

Verna Field

The Queen and Duke attended a musical play at St James Theatre, Auckland, about Christmas and a unicorn, and after the performance, the Queen and Duke went on stage to meet all the cast who were lined up, and when the Queen turned to face the audience everyone gasped as the strong stage lights lit up the white satin gown and the diamonds in the hair, throat, ears and arms, they all seemed to come to life and pulsed.

Miss M.F. Rhodes

At the time of the Queen's 1953-4 visit I was an officer of the Auckland Garrison Artillery (Territorial). I volunteered to be a member of the 'Laning Party' for the Garden Party to be held in Old Government House grounds [on 23 December 1953]. It was summertime and the jacaranda trees were in flower providing and appropriate magnificent display.

The function of the Laning Party was to delineate a lane (a space in the crowd of invited guests) in front of the OGH steps in which the Queen and the Prince would circulate. We were told that at Buckingham Palace garden parties this function was performed by the Gentlemen of the Household. We were ordered to report the week before to have our service dress, medals, Small Browne, gloves etc checked by (then) Col. G. Cade DSO from Army HQ.

On the day we were instructed to form a lozenge shaped area in which the royal pair would meet those guests that were introduced to them in turn by the equerries. We were to move the enclosure gradually towards the royal refreshment tent at the end of the grassed area by an appointed time.

In the event the Queen and the Duke engaged in conversation with a wide range of gentleman had served in the same ship as the Duke. It was obvious that the royal pair were highly experienced at this way of meeting people and were clearly interested to learn about their guests, and engaged them in animated conversation.... For us it was not at all exciting. One newspaper reporter paid us the compliment of calling us 'handsome army officers', much to our amusement.

Frank Rogers

I was 9 years old living in the Henry Brett Memorial Home for Girls, Orphanage in Killarney St Takapuna. It was a two storey building and all the girls stood on the top balcony, where we could see Rangitoto Channel, and the Royal Yacht Britannia was coming up the channel. The Church Army Matron (who came from England and was a right royalist) had taught us to sing "England Arise, the long long night is over, faint in the eventide the dawn sings clear, will you dream of those dreams, of toil and sorrow, will you dream of those evil dreams of mine. Come and tell the time ...............mine. England is risen and the Lord is here. (I have never met another person in New Zealand who knew this hymn, I was told we were more British than the British).

We all had flags waving to this boat surrounded by yachts and boats in the channel, it looked magnificent, from the balcony at the orphanage and we all felt very much part of the royal arrival into Auckland harbour. Later we took the bus/ferry up to Queen Street, Auckland and stood with thousands of people waiting for the Queen to drive past, where we waved vigorously as she passed by. We were all given a memorial medal at Takapuna Primary School, I believe every pupil in New Zealand was given one. I had a bracelet with lots of coronation charms on it, I was so proud.

Lynn McKenzie


In 1953 I was just 2 years old and I can remember. We lived near Te Kauwhata, and the Queen & Duke were driving from Huntly through Te Kauwhata to Alton Lodge, a stud farm... for lunch. I was hoisted onto my daddy's shoulders outside the Post Office. The entire town and all surrounding farm families were there. To our surprise, the Duke himself was driving!

I always remembered this, but as I grew up people told me I must have imagined it. Years later as an adult I came across an old copy of the now defunct Weekly News (when its cover was pink paper) that had covered the Tour. It had an article which confirmed this childhood memory. The Duke did, indeed, take the wheel just north of Huntly and drove through Te Kauwhata.

Moyae Kennedy
Santa Rosa, USA

In January 1954 my family were on holiday at Te Kauwhata where we joined hundreds of holidaymakers sitting on the side of the road waiting for the Queen to drive past. I was 14 years old and my mother must have been one of NZ's most ardent 'Royal Supporters'.

We arrived early in the morning and sat in the blazing sun for hours and hours, until mid afternoon the cry went out 'She's coming'! Away in the distance was this beautiful, huge, shiny car moving slowly along.

Mum was so excited as she lined up her box Brownie camera to take The Picture, that she only actually managed to take one snap. When we returned back to Wanganui we waited for the film to be developed and then at last the picture...a wonderful picture of a beautiful, huge, shiny car bonnet! Mum was so very disappointed but, never mind, we had been there and seen her!

Lindsay Watson

When the Queen and Philip visited Hamilton on the Royal Tour of '53-54 the City of Hamilton gave a dinner at Cardrona, near the Fairfield Bridge. I made sure I was positioned at the entrance of Cardrona's driveway, and after a long wait, my anticipation was richly rewarded as the royal car, gleaming in the early evening sunshine, slowed almost to a halt in front of me. To my joy and wonder, there, three feet away, was a tiny figure of great regality, smiling and waving. Deep blue eyes, an astonishingly clear complexion, sparkling diamonds, lustrous silk, and a warm and happy smile greeted the gaze of one young enamoured 13 year old - after which, I raced back across the bridge to regale my family with my great adventure!

Jennifer Masters

Bay of Plenty

I was eleven at the time. We holidayed at Waipū Cove each year, and had driven into Waipū to see the young Queen go past. Unfortunately, they must have been running late, and drove past much too fast for us kids to get a good look. Apparently, there was so much whingeing from the kids that all the parents ...hatched a plan to go to Rotorua, where the Queen was going to be for several days. In no time at all, a convoy of five families and seven cars headed south.

We managed to find a camping ground that wasn't booked out, and settled in for a good dose or Royalty. The camping ground was just off the road between Moose Lodge (where the Queen was staying) and Rotorua. Each day, we built sand castles on the centre line of the road, replete with little flags a-waving. By the end of the Queen's visit, her driver was slowing down and aiming for the sand castles (or, is that just childish elaboration?). For that group of a dozen or so children, the 'Rotorua trip' to see the Queen is still a vivid memory.

Poverty Bay

I was six and living in Gisborne the day the Queen visited, 6 January 1954....The great day dawned, hot and very windy. Bedecked in summer clothes and wearing my Royal Visit medal (I couldn't find my Coronation medal), and no doubt smothered in Nyall sunburn cream, I was despatched to the school marshalling point complete with lunchbox and flag (which my mother had stolen from a shop on VE Day because she couldn't be bothered joining that queue). Along with all the other excited kids, we were made to sit on the kerbside to await the motorcade. All too soon the royal visit was over as the vehicles swept past. I recall a royal hand demurely attempting to prevent the strong wind lifting the skirt of a lemon-coloured dress, but little else. I returned home later in the day, terribly sunburnt and, according to my mother, in tears exclaiming, "She didn't even wave to me!"

Warwick Brunton

Xmas of 1953 we were camping in Gisborne. The day of the Queen's visit was very hot and windy. My mother had a wide mouthed thermos flask which she filled with icecream and we went along armed with this and folding camp stools. It was a long wait in the hot sun and we were the envy of our neighbours as we refreshed ourselves with icecream.

When the royal party finally arrived, the wind had got up. This was the era of calf length full skirts and picture hats. The local ladies being presented to the Queen on the dais had a problem. Did they hold onto their hats or their skirts? The Queen shared their problem. There was one unforgettable moment when the royal skirts and petticoats rose to shoulder height before she let her hat take its chances. What a pity my father was too late with his camera! If any of the media cameras caught that moment, it is probably the pride of a private collection as it certainly never made any paper's front page that I saw.

Jeanette Grant

Hawke’s Bay

We were so excited at actually having them here. I was 15 and had a school-holiday job at a Department Store in Hastings. There were radios stationed around the Store broadcasting the moment when the Queen stepped onto New Zealand soil for the first time, and these broadcasts continued for the length of the tour. Every moment was savoured by a large number of customers listening intently around each radio. No television then! We saw the Royal party as often as we could and marvelled over the Queen's beautiful complexion and wardrobe....

The Queen and Duke travelled through Hawke's Bay by Royal Train, stopping at each town or city for an official welcome. Every detail of the day remains a vivid memory, even the beautiful dress worn by the Queen. Thousands of people from all over central Hawke's Bay were gathered at the Railway Station in Waipukurau on 7 January 1954. A ripple of excitement sweeping through the crowd heralded the arrival of the Royal Train with crimson carriages and a gleaming white roof. When the Queen and Duke stepped from the train they were met by my Uncle Jack McCarthy, Mayor of Waipukurau, and Aunty Tess, and then they all walked along a pathway between ropes of beautiful flowers to a dais. Uncle Jack proudly welcomed Her Majesty and His Royal Highness to his town.... A favourite family story from that day is of Uncle Jack searching and searching for the Mayoral Chain before he left home to go to the welcome, until he was told he was already wearing it!

Moira Draper


I was a young school teacher and a cub leader in Hawera. The tour and rail stop was eagerly awaited. The itinerary was such that the train would halt at the station and cars would take the Queen and her party around a series of streets so that all the people lining the streets would have a good view. However, the streets chosen had some very unsightly buildings and the powers that be who arrange these things decided something had to be done to cover these sights from royal eyes. Every school child set about making paper flowers in red, white and blue crepe paper. These were gathered and hung on these "eye sores". The gasometer was covered in a replica of the mountain.

When the great day arrived everyone, young, old, school children, scouts, cubs, guides, brownies families with prams went to the railway station for the best view and there were very few on the Royal Mile! The cars rushed through the streets and back to the station. So much for all the paper flowers. My grandfather was one of the elderly given a privileged position at the station but the crowds all stood in front and he never saw the Queen and the Duke. Such a pity, as when he was Mayor of the town he had welcomed the Prince of Wales in 1920.

Judith Foy


I was 9 at the time of the Queen's visit in 1953-54. My sister and I were in the Brownies and I remember clearly her visit to Palmerston North. We waited for what seemed like hours at Milverton Park for the young Queen to pass us by. Suddenly an urgent whisper went through the crowd. "She is coming" The black car passed us at quite a speed, but all I could say in my young thoughts was "My gosh she is beautiful."... [T]here was magic in the air all over the country and people went crazy over the Queen. Large adoring crowds went everywhere and my mother went to wait outside the Grand Hotel to see her come out onto the small balcony. Everyone was calling "We want the Queen". One small voice was heard to cry "We want the Duke" - which really amused my mother at the time. She was so involved with the magic of it all also.

A lasting memory of that visit was of the Queen and Duke leaving Palmerston North on the train. They both stood on the back of the guard wagon waving goodbye. One man ran along the tracks after them in a sort of desperate farewell to a loved one. I think everyone felt the same and we went home with a real feeling of isolation and loss. They were wonderful times and the young people of today who insult and throw off at royalty have really lost something of our heritage which in many ways we should be proud of.

Cherrill Suckling

In the evening the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh drove around the Palmerston North Square from the Grand Hotel where they were staying to their evening reception. I had seen the Queen during her afternoon drive around the City but then we had to go home for my father to milk. We rushed back into town and I was still walking with my mother when we heard the cheering. I ran ahead to the crowd but it was so deep that there was no way I could squeeze myself through to the front. A man standing at the back saw my plight and lifted me up onto his shoulders. I looked down into the floodlit, open car and had a wonderful view of the Queen looking magnificent in her evening gown and tiara - just the way I knew she should look.

I have often wondered if the faceless man who lifted up a little girl that night ever remembered me or could have imagined how gratefully I link him with the glimpse that created such a special picture in my memory.

Lorna Jensen


I remember when the Queen and Duke visited Masterton on January 15th, 1954, and drove through the grounds of Wairarapa College. I was a pupil at Wairarapa College at the time, and although it was the school holidays and summer, we were asked to don our winter uniforms, which were obviously considered tidier than our summer uniforms, and we lined the driveway through the college grounds to wave as the Royal couple drove through. Some of us then went into town and waved again, as they drove through Queen Street on the return trip to Wellington, after a reception at the Masterton Park.

Helen Turner nee Spicer


When the first Royal Tour happened I was at secondary school in Wellington and we were all asked to join a choir to sing before the Royal Couple at the civic reception in Wellington's Town Hall..... From memory I can only recall three pieces we rehearsed "Hail Elizabeth" from Merry England. "God of Nations" and of course "God Save The Queen" The rehearsals took place in each school Hall for the first three months each choir rehearsing the pieces then came three rehearsals at the town hall. I remember being placed at the back of the choir on the left hand side in front of the centre big pipe of the organ. It was a blast.

On the big day we were told to be at the Town Hall at 8am no later than 9am. Travelling from Petone one had to be sure of either the train or bus time table as in those days getting into the city for a big occasion was difficult. We had to wear our best school uniforms. The reception was scheduled for 11am, I think . It was for us a very long wait and if you had a toilet call well that was just too bad for you. The Town Hall was decorated out in masses of flowers and there were about 200 in the choir and we were to sing with the organ being played (This whole arrangement was too much for some of us as excitement made many of us slightly dumb when it came to singing.) When the Royal Couple came into the hall, which was filled with those that mattered the Organ Blasted forth and we sang to our hearts content "God Save the Queen". The rest of the reception went off successfully as did the singing. It was broadcast from the radio on a delay system. I remember after leaving the Town Hall, a good half hour after the main entourage had left, getting the train back to Petone and the recording of the reception being played over a loudspeaker at the Petone railway station to an empty station. This was the only record I ever heard of the occasion. We were given no memento of the occasion nor were we ever thanked just herded into the hall and kicked out later at the finish.... We did sing before the Queen "A Royal Performance" if you would like to coin a phrase it was fun and on the day it was stinking hot especially in the old Town Hall.

Brian Grimstrup

Although I couldn't see her I was present when my mother, her friend and their assorted children waited on the Hutt Road overbridge in the hot sun for a glimpse of the biggest celebrity of the era. My mother, prepared for Wellington's changeable weather, was wearing a thick coat but it soon became a burden as the day cleared after a southerly. Finally the Queen's open backed laudalette flashed by. My then five year old sister clearly remembers seeing the Queen, while my mother remembers merely the heat and the waiting. Five weeks later I was born and instead of the popular name Elizabeth I was named after the Kiwi usurper of coronation publicity nine months earlier.

Hilary Stace

I well remember the first time I saw the Queen and Duke on their first tour in NZ. It was in Wellington, and they were in an open-air carriage, on a glorious summers day, and the Queen was in her Coronation Gown, white long gloves and the diamond tiara, diamond necklace, diamond earrings and diamond bracelets were all sparkling in the sunlight. They were on their way to the state opening of Parliament.

Miss M.F. Rhodes

West Coast

In 1953-54 I was 11 years old and the Queen and Duke were driving down High Street in Greymouth. The crowds were very thick and I wiggled to the front just as their car was passing, the Queen smiled at me and I was hooked. An instant avid royalist. I then ran alongside the car for about half a mile at which time the Duke of Edinburgh looked across and said, "If you run much further, you will burst". Well I was just totally blown away. That evening practically the entire population was gathered outside Revington's Hotel where the Royal couple were staying, calling "We want the Queen". Then as soon as everything went quiet this little eleven year old stood and yelled at the top of her voice. " I want the Duke". The Royal Couple came out onto the balcony and waved and the crowd went wild, especially me - I was totally convinced the Duke only came out because I called for him to do so.

Pat Jamieson

They arrived by air (from Nelson via Westport) - landing at Hokitika Airport - after spending time at Hokitika, they drove north to Greymouth (and departed a day or so later by train to ChCh.) In preparation for the Royal Visit - only the left-side of the 25-mile roadway was resealed between Hokitika and Greymouth; for some years later known locally as "Lizzie's side"

I was talking [about this] to my Dad (who's in his 80s)...he said "that's right - it took bloody years for them to get the road right after that.

Bev Huston


I would have been a girl aged 5 then and remember being with my grandmother among a crowd of people in Christchurch when the Queen visited that city. I remember crying to 'Nanna' after the appearance of the Queen that I hadn't seen her. I had been expecting to see the Queen dressed in a sequinned gown with a diamond crown on her head (like in the pictures I had seen in magazines), but of course, she was wearing a much less formal dress suited to the time of the day!

Brenda Burr

I was a five year old when the Queen first visited Christchurch, and I remember being taken to see her on several occasions during the days she was in the city. But the one that stands out most clearly in my memory was seeing her drive by in Bealey Avenue. What really impressed me was the fact that I could see my reflection in the side of the car as it went by! I had never seen such a shiny car - far shinier than the little old Ford that my parents owned.

Brent Costley

South Canterbury

On 25-January-1954, as part of her trip to New Zealand, Queen Elizabeth 11 visited Timaru. All the schools in the area had a day off so that children had the opportunity to see the Queen and join in the festivities. As a six year old I remember journeying from Pleasant Point to Timaru with the rest of her family, in my father's old square Erskine car, and joining the crowd near the Viaduct at the top of Caroline Bay, the route the Queen would be taking on her way to the official function. The town was beautifully decorated for the event and there were very large crowds of excited people all waving flags. My parents, as was their nature, did not push towards the front, but stood back; a little group of mother, father, myself, a 5 year old, and three year old twins in the double pushchair. I could not see the road clearly through the crowd but can remember black cars going past, everyone shouting and excitedly waving their flags, and then it was over. I had not seen the Queen, in fact I hadn't really known what to look for.

Excerpt from The book of PRIEST according to Uncle Cecil, volume 25, a family history of the descendants of JOHN and DEBORAH PRIEST in N.Z. since 1863. Continuously written by Daphne-Anne Freeke (available to family members on request).

Daphne-Anne Freeke (nee Hoare)


My long-time school and (at the time) university friend Bob and I were members of the small team which wound up Dunedin's Town Hall Clock every few days using a huge crank handle to raise the weights. Once we had finished in the Tower on the day of the Queen's visit (26 Jan 1954) we entered 'secret' tunnels from which we could look down like high boom TV cameramen to see the Queen and the ceremonies at the reception there.

I was driven in a Crossley limousine to my clock duties that day. The car was one of several used for the pre-World War II Royal visit. Uncle Harry successfully tendered for it when the NZ Government sold them off. "You should sit on one of the 'dickie' seats today," he said. He let me think I was sitting on the very seat once used by the Queen when she was still a Princess. Was he kidding? To this day I still wonder.

My abiding memory though is the excitement of being a 'secret guest' at the glamorous event and the Queen's radiant presence.


Other visits

Not the '54 but a later tour. A Maori welcome party in Gisborne were lucky to have the Queen do a walk-along to meet them. The Queen commented on one girls' Tiki and asked if she could have it to which the girl replied 'No'. The Queen carried on and a senior person asked and admonished the girl for not parting with the Tiki to which the girl then replied I couldn't because-and she turned the Tiki around to show the words "Made in Hong Kong".She felt it would be an insult to have handed the plastic Tiki over. True Story

Julie-Ann Brown

1927 visit

I was present aged 13 at the welcome to the Duke and Duchess of York by a large assembly of school children in the Auckland Domain, when they drove in an open limousine through the cheering crowd who had been waiting for some time for the few minutes glimpse of the waving royal couple.

Frank Rogers

1986 visit

As a member of the NZ Police I was on duty for the Queen's official visit in 1986, which coincided with the Centenary of the NZ Police....I had recently volunteered and been accepted onto the part time Police VIP Protection Unit in Auckland....Imagine my complete surprise when I was told I was selected as one of two officers to personally escort the Queen and the Duke for their downtown Auckland walkabout. I was both excited and concerned, for such a duty carries considerable, very public responsibility. My colleague, Sergeant Bill Davey and I underwent a specialist briefing which included the Royal party's preference to be given several metres separation from her protection unit and not be crowded by them.

On the day, a huge crowd gathered in lower Queen Street and in QEII Square as the Royal pair arrived and alighted near Fort Street. They immediately split up and walked on different sides of the road towards QEII Square. Initially Bill followed the Queen and I stayed with the Duke, until halfway round the large circle formed in the square, the pair passed each other and crossed over. Bill and I also swapped over and I was then escorting the Queen herself! All manner of things swam through my mind during this short time of tremendous responsibility on my part. Watching the crowd for aggressors, briefly scanning rooftops crowded with cheering onlookers, for anything suspicious, or remotely threatening. Suddenly, time stood completely still and everything happened in slow motion, as my peripheral vision caught sight of an object flying high over the crowd and straight at the Queen. I was about three metres from her and the closest one to her. My initial thought was my worst fear - grenade!? In a total space of about three seconds, I had to make a decision. Should I try to grab the bomb and throw it clear? - Throw myself onto it and smother the blast? - Throw the Queen onto the ground and cover her with my body? Unconsciously and automatically, I had already covered half the distance towards her, when to my huge relief, the form of the "bomb" came suddenly into sharp focus and revealed itself as a completely harmless and beautiful, large red rose! The adrenaline flowed freely in the minutes that followed and on her departure, Her Majesty spoke briefly to me to me before alighting her car once more. To this day, I have no idea what she said! Afterwards, no one ever remarked on my sudden movement that day. I could have been a hero - or a fool and I came close to the latter!

Ken Brewer

How to cite this page

Remembering the royals, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated