On my first opportunity to greet royalty I flubbed my lines. As a six year-old lad welcoming the newly crowned Queen on her first visit to Wales, I’d been given a little flag to wave and encouragement to give a hearty cheer as she walked by. I was well-placed at the front of the crowd, but when the time came to perform I was so over-awed that I just stood speechless with my little flag drooping [insert your own joke here]. In my defence, as well as being The Queen she was also the first TV star I’d ever seen. Her funeral last month reminded me of watching her coronation seven decades earlier, and a Canadian operation that made North American television history.
March 1st being the feast of David, patron saint of Wales, puts me in mind of meeting the current Prince of Wales, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, at a cocktail party aboard the Canadian destroyer Gatineau. We were both naval Lieutenants, he serving aboard the Royal Navy frigate Jupiter as Communications Officer and me in one of Her Majesty’s (His Mother’s?) Canadian Submarines with the distinctly un-warlike name of “Rainbow”, after a British cruiser transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910. Our respective vessels were making port calls to San Diego.
It’s not often you get to see two of the Cunard Line’s great passenger ships in port at the same time. It’s particularly significant in Halifax, where Samuel Cunard founded the company. Last week crowds lined the shores in brilliant late afternoon sunshine to watch the spectacle of Queen Elizabeth 3 and Queen Mary 2 leave their berths, steam in line up the Dartmouth side of the harbour, then turn seaward along the Halifax piers; Queen Elizabeth bound for St. John’s and Queen Mary for New York. Surely a more stately sight than Britannia, Cunard’s first tiny hybrid paddlewheel steamer with its full suit of sails furled away as backup, chuntering seaward along the same course 180 years ago.
I have a special fondness for Queen Mary 2, having immigrated to Canada (via New York) aboard her predecessor, back in the day when crossing the Atlantic by air was still a new but unaffordable luxury to us common folk. Dad had gone ahead to find a job, then Mum and I followed.