Royalty in Esperance

prince charles

In 1979, Prince Charles embarked on a tour of Western Australia. It was during this trip that the very eligible bachelor was kissed by Perth model Jane Priest as he came out of the water in his swimming trunks at Cottesloe, leading to the famous photo of the moment. Prince Charles visited many regional areas, including Esperance, piloting the airplane himself on the trip from Albany. Many Esperance locals have fascinating memories of this visit. School children lined up to wave flags when Prince Charles drove by, and children from schools in the surrounding area, such as Condingup and Salmon Gums were bussed in for the occasion. Janine Cream was a school girl at the time, and remembers showing Prince Charles some sketches she had done. Janine also remembers another schoolgirl kissing him on the cheek while she was talking to him- “He said, ‘what a pretty girl’, and lost interest in me and my sketches.”

While in Esperance, Prince Charles stayed at the historic Dempster Homestead. He also did a walk down Andrew Street, meeting some of the assembled crowd. Lorri Western remembers Prince Charles stopping to talk to her and her baby daughter, who was fascinated by the Princes’ shiny cuff links. Lorri remembers the Prince mentioning that the cuff links were a gift for his recent 21st birthday.

Prince Charles wasn’t the first royal to visit Esperance. In 1966, the Queen Mother visited the newly opened wharf. The town’s school children were all lined up in the sun on a scorching hot day, waiting for quite a long time to see the royal visitor, and Steve Florisson recalls at least one child fainting. Sue Iles remembers her sister not coping very well with the heat, and throwing up just after the Queen Mother walked past, much to her mother’s embarrassment. According to Yvonne Larmour, the school children were all told to burst into ‘God Save the Queen’ when the Queen Mother’s big black car came over the hill. Yvonne recalls, “The first black car to come over the hill was Mrs Birmingham, in her old black Peugeot, and she got a full rendition of the song before they could silence us.” Barb Terrell, one of the first teachers at Castletown Primary, recounts walking to the wharf area with her class, and that many children ended up at the first aid tent due to the heat. She recalls that the Queen Mother was elegant and serene, and showed no sign of being affected by the heat.

(A big thank you to all those who shared their memories of these visits!)


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