Dressed in his best dark navy suit, a young, 20 year old banana farmer named Des Cassidy, stood silently in the formal receiving line at the Coffs Harbour Town Hall.
It was April 1970, and the Royal Yacht Britannia had sailed into my old home town, carrying on board Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and Princess Anne who were touring Australia to commemorate the bicentenary of Captain James Cook’s discovery of the East Coast of Australia.
After mooring their regal vessel amongst the infinitely smaller craft at the Coffs Jetty, The Queen and her companions made their way to a Civic Reception, where my father waited nervously, with local dignitaries to welcome Her Majesty to this small coastal town.
Normally a farmer, as hard-working as my father was, wouldn’t be amongst the usual selection of local luminaries invited to pay homage to the Head of State. However, as President of his local “Rural Youth Club” (which was basically an organisation that kept country kids from mischief and gave them the chance to socialise with other isolated farm children) my dad Des had been hand-picked by then local MP, Matt Singleton, along with Secretary Robyn Dean, to attend.
And while he also wasn’t on the scheduled list of introductions to be made that day by the Shire President, something had caught Queen Elizabeth’s eye.
You see, days before this historic event my Dad had come out second best against a cane knife. As a result his arm was encased in a sling, bound by heavy bandages.
Ever inquisitive, it was this sight that saw Her Majesty gravitate towards him.
Queen Elizabeth grimaced in pain as my Dad recounted to her (and again later to Princess Anne, who also approached him) that a serious banana farming accident had resulted in him almost severing his thumb after bracing himself from the fall against the sharp knife.
“And how are you feeling now?” she inquired with all the care of a mother and politeness of a Royal. After assuring her of his health, Her Majesty offered a final smile and well wishes before continuing on with the procession.
And while it may have been an event that transpired over 4 decades before it is still a memory that my father Des cherishes with great pride. After all, there are not many who can claim to have held a conversation with The Queen!
|My dashing Dad Des, with Robyn Dean, on the day he met the Queen|