Home' Greymouth Star : April 12th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
West Coast Feature
Saturday, April 12, 2014 - 7
Royal tour, Coast style
Cold chicken drumsticks ser ved with beetroot
and iceberg lettuce salad and mayonnaise made
with canned condensed milk — a royal of a
feed for me and I wonder if Wills and Kate are
getting a taste of this Kiwi gourmet delight this
It was March 1970 and this was the lunch
ser ved up to Will’s granny and grandpa,
together with his dad and Aunt Anne in a
marquee at Victoria Park in Greymouth, where
they were visiting the West Coast Industries
Fair during the 1970 royal tour.
Representing Greymouth’s Marist High
School, I had the joy of sharing that lunch with
the Windsors, saddled up in a borrowed green
and gold blazer and striped tie, resplendent
wearing the sandpaper-lined crotch woollen
long pants, kindly loaned from their once-
only outing at my cousin’s graduation from
The three Greymouth secondary schools
were represented. St Mary’s had their head
girl resplendent in a provocative navy pleated
gym frock and cream panama hat, while the
Protestants from Greymouth High were
allowed both their head boy and head girl.
The lunch included all the usual suspects,
from mayors and clergy to local sporting
heroes. One signed my place name, the recently
crowned West Coast sportsman of the year
and Kiwi fullback, Don Ladner. I should have
chased after Aunty Anne’s autograph if I had
known she was to become an Olympian.
The three-day Industries Fair itself must have
ticked all the boxes for the tour organisers in
Wellington. Security risks in Greymouth then
were as rare as droughts, although Victoria Park
was not a stone’s throw from the former home
of famous Bassett Road machine-gun murderer,
John Gillies, then safely on Her Majesty’s
ser vice in Mount Eden.
The fair had everything with a colonial flavour
that the royals could wish to see in small-town
New Zealand. Besides the brawny bulls, fluffy
sheep and shiny horses on show, descended
from the finest British bloodlines, they could
watch the dusty coal shovelling or enthralling
jiggerboard chop, or go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ with the
crowd watching the Bucketts Gym girls contort
themselves inside out.
They could not help be amazed by the Woolly
West Coasters’ ladies spinning a sheep’s fleece
into a jersey inside 20 minutes, or if the Duke
and Charles wanted some real manly
thrills, they could visit Ronnie Moore’s
‘ Wall of Death’ motorbike stunt.
The after-lunch entertainment
centred on the feature bike race
of the fair, a few laps around the
park’s limestone trotting track that
had witnessed major New Zealand
sporting feats in earlier years, such as
the defeat by West Coast in 1946 of
the Great Britain rugby league team
and a host of trotting winners who
had gone on to win major races like
the New Zealand Cup.
Greymouth’s most famous sporting
achiever, 1952 Melbourne Cup winner
Dalray, never graced the park but raced
at nearby Omoto.
The bike racers were handicapped,
being held ready by attendants at starting
points around the track, directly adjacent to the
pristine royal dais. The crowd packed the rails
and the two grandstands were chocka.
The starter stood with the riders on scratch
and held his starting pistol skywards. “Click,
click, click” it went. Ditto, the sequence was
repeated. The pistol was jammed.
“Hang on a minute,” a voice called out. It was
my cousin, the older brother of the one who
lent me the strides. He rushed to the boot of
his Holden parked trackside near the royal dais
and pulled out a hunting rifle.
The starter was so relieved. “ Bang” went the
gun, pointing to the clouds and the race was
on, barely a hiccup at all. Not an eyebrow was
raised about any possible security breaches or
Only in Greymouth, a smoking gun
seemingly not a hair’s breadth from the Queen
Back to the royal lunch. The tables were
beautifully laid out with flowers and shiny
silver cutlery. At geometric centred points
along the starched white tablecloths lay small
piles of complimentary packets of Rothman’s
cigarettes, a placement and PR coup for the
local representative, Neville Tiller.
Like Ladner, Tiller was also a rugby league
Kiwi of an era when the Coast was beating
Auckland in the code.
To a teenage schoolboy, the fags were coin
of the realm. Such a generous gesture by
As the crowd filed out following the
formalities, led by the royal party, two faces
peered over the top of the canvas that was the
sidewall of the tent. Two familiar faces, two
Marist boys in fact.
“Get the fags, get the fags” they called.
The blazer pockets bulged as I nonchalantly
left the marquee feeling very pleased to be able
to oblige my school mates. At the exit, I felt a
hand grab my green lapel with its telling name
tag and a stern voice said, “I know your mother,
I will be watching you”. Gulp. I saw from his
tag he was the chairman of the Inangahua
District Council and he ran a petrol station in
Reefton. Of course he knew my mother; she
did the accounts for his petrol supplier based in
With the fags unloaded I was left to ponder
my fate and owning up to the double jeopardy
of theft and the implication of sly fagging to
the toughest jurist of all, my mum.
The exposure never came.
Some years later on a job writing a story at
the State sawmill in Tapanui, the manager took
me home for dinner and I met his wife. They
had met in Reefton while he was at the forest
ranger training school there.
I asked about her maiden name. It was the
same as my nemesis at the royal lunch. I asked
if so-in-so who was the council chairman and
owned a petrol station was her dad. I had asked
in a tone where you do not really want to know
the answer. Sure was.
“ Where is he now?” I asked. “ He passed away
two years ago,” she said. “ Thank God for that,”
I said to myself.
Cold chicken drumsticks, beetroot,
old-fashioned mayo and Rothmans — such
fond memories are royal tour.
Queen Elizabeth with her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, at Victoria Park, Greymouth in 1970.
Links Archive April 11th 2014 April 14th 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page