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  • Writer's pictureNikki Mantell

Prince Philip was here too

“All hailed the Queen, Wakefield: Oct. 16, 1977”

That was our huge front page headline of that week, the entire page dedicated to a photo of Queen Elizabeth II being greeted by then Mayor Cleo Fournier at the train turntable.

Four pages of photos and stories told all the details of the royal visit to the village - it was a husband-and-wife team effort (the paper’s entire staff), my father took a slew of photos, my mother did all the writing – and yet the Duke of Edinburgh was mentioned by name only once, with just one grainy photo of the handsome husband in the background of a crowd shot.

The late Prince Philip had many strengths, and perhaps his greatest was being a supportive husband to the most powerful woman in the world. And, as the world mourns his loss this week, we thought we’d treat readers to a flashback of that historic day. The following is just one of the many pieces in that edition by then-editor Kitty Mantell (cleaned up for our infamous typos), who was lucky enough to ride the train with royalty.

What the Queen saw (headline)

Who would have thought there were that many Union Jacks tucked away in closets and attics?

But as the Queen’s train huffed its way into the Gatineau Hills, they were all out there waving. Union Jacks, Canadian flags, Quebec flags and home-made banners floated over the heads of unofficial greeters at every crossroad the train passed.

Probably the most imaginative greeting came from the Kirk’s Ferry Road group.

Twenty-five motley dressed people stood in the rain, under their homemade banner. Led by a gent in top hat, black tie and tails, they raised full wine glasses in a cheerful toast to royalty as the train rumbled by.

But their good-humoured greeting was no less sincere than from the crowds of ten to 20 hardy Canadians who stood in the rain at every cross road, open field, or hung over the fence in someone’s backyard. In fact, some of them just seemed to materialize out of impenetrable bush. But every group had a flag to wave, a grin to grin, and a shout of welcome.

A few of those people must have left an indelible impression; like the lone, parka-clad lady standing in the bush with a Union Jack inscribed “Newfoundland.” Or the crowded pontoon raft afloat on the river, with an army of arms waving under a brace of Canadian flags. Or the lined face of an elderly lady, waving a green Kleenex from her open kitchen window. Or the single canoeist, a small red dot on a vast grey river raising his paddle in salute.

They lined the route from Ottawa to Wakefield, all out for a look at the Queen. But window glass is a two-way affair.

The Queen saw a bit of Canada, too.


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