WHILE the Duke and Duchess of Dubbo – ah, we mean Sussex – continue their much-publicised Australian tour, people in the Tamworth area have reflected on their own brushes with royalty.
The royal newlyweds and parents-to-be may have decided the home of the Big Golden Guitar would not be on their agenda this time ’round, but some of their forebears made it one of their top destinations.
Keen royalist Shirley Griffin, of Calala, clearly remembers when Queen Elizabeth II and husband Prince Philip spent time in Tamworth in March 1977.
While she was here, Her Royal Highness opened the Peel-Cunningham County Council Building, now home to Tamworth Regional Council.
“I remember driving out to the airport and watching her come off the plane,” Mrs Griffin said.
“She was in this really pretty, spotty dress with matching hat … she was just so beautiful and her skin was so nice.”
Mrs Griffin said her support of the monarchy came from childhood.
“I remember, when I was a little girl, sitting up to listen to the coronation with my mother and sister, and it was a sense of occasion,” she said.
And, while little Luke Vincent warmed the hearts of the nation with his unselfconscious affection for the royals, a Tamworth boy did it first.
Five-year-old Luke cuddled Prince Harry and wife Meghan Markle, and stroked Harry’s beard during their Dubbo meet-and-greet.
In Tamworth in 1977, a four-year-old Joseph Madirazza broke through barricades and a 150-strong security force to present the Queen with a posy of flowers.
Mum Carmel said that, although it was breaking protocol, she thought it had shown “a lot of initiative”.
“He wanted to do it himself: he helped me grow the flowers and, when we were picking some for an aunty, he said, ‘I’d like to give some of those to the Queen’.
“I thought it was something special … to think a child at that age can do things off his own bat, so to speak.”
Prince Charles has also been a return visitor to Tamworth.
Goonoo Goonoo Station was a favourite spot, as reported in The Canberra Times on September 8, 1985, in a story about the station changing hands in a $5.2 million auction “hailed as the most historic of the century”.
“Prince Charles stayed as a schoolboy and again as recently as 1974.
“The royal connection has led to its fair share of apocryphal stories, such as the fantasy that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have stayed on the property and the myth that Charles swam in the swimming pool (‘it wasn't even built then’).
“But Prince Charles’s signed photograph is placed among a cluster in the drawing room, including one of Lord and Lady Casey and another of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus of the Netherlands.”
Later, the Times ran a brief story with a photo of a “suntanned Prince Charles” who “had a smile and a wave for a group of girls waiting to see him as he left the aircraft at Sydney airport ... after spending part of his school holidays at Goonoo Goonoo cattle station near Tamworth.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.