Queen’s Birthday holiday this year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth 2. She has been Queen of Britain and her Commonwealth for 60 years and 117 days. She is eclipsed by Queen Victoria. When on the trams our commentary near the Victoria Square stop mentioned Victoria being the longest reigning British Monarch. We said “64 years.” It was actually a tad short of that – 63 years 216 days. An excellent story in The Press ‘Your Weekend’ about the present Queen’s Royal Visits to New Zealand claims 70 per cent of our population turned out to see her and hubby, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1953-54. It was the first visit to these shores by a reigning monarch. I remember the event as a bright-eyed 11-year-old clutching my paper flag. I thought she was so beautiful I vowed to go to London as soon as I was old enough to see her at Buckingham Palace. I was 43 years older by the time I made it to the Palace and she was not at home. I vividly recall the 1954 South Island Royal Train. Bright red carriages were strung behind two brand new Ja Class steam locos, No.1262 and No.1263, built at Dunedin’s NZR Hillside Workshops. While on holiday we waited for the train to pass near Seacliff and the Royal Couple appeared on the rear balcony of the Royal Carriage. Later we were able to see inside the Royal train vehicles when they were parked at Dunedin.
On television last week I enjoyed a delightful item presenting the Queen’s old photographs of her children, Charles and Anne, playing like any other kids. One was running down a sand hill at the beach. It brought back memories of school when we were treated to wonderful illustrations of Royalty and the new Prince and Princess, probably the first colour images we had seen. Charles does not seem to be the popular choice for King. But I think he has been under-rated. He is involved in countless worthy environmental and wildlife causes. He strikes me as being excellent company enjoying a beer.
Maybe this year’s Queen’s Birthday holiday has more to commemorate. I hope Queen Elizabeth 2, aged 86, can hang in there to outdo Victoria’s reign.
And while on the subject of longevity pop out and get a copy of the latest Latitude magazine, a great Canterbury read if you are not familiar with it. There’s a 4-page story about 97-year-old Geraldine Bowman, perhaps the sole surviving conductress from the Christchurch Tramways that closed in September 1954? I spoke to Geraldine recently and she did not sound like a 97-year-old. I remember her visiting our city tramway on several occasions, typically dressed in her 1950s trammie uniform. A wonderful, brave, woman.