A lifetime of encounters with Prince Philip

The royal party arriving in Brodick by barge in 1947.

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Mairi S Christie was only a small girl on Arran when she first met Prince Philip but it was not to be their last encounter. Here she gives her personal experience of the Duke of Edinburgh who died earlier this month.

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It is with sadness that I heard of the death of Prince Philip.

I had the good fortune to meet him several times and even on the first, when I was a small child, he showed that special talent for making everyone feel at ease in his company.

In July 1947, the royal family led by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were on their first visit to Arran since 1902 and were accompanied by the then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, just four months before their marriage.

I was the youngest Brownie in Brodick when Prince Philip asked me if he could be my partner as we marched down the pier. I have never forgotten the thrill of that moment. Speaking to him at a garden party many years later he remembered the incident and said how much he loved the island and Scotland in general.

In 1977, I was honoured to be asked to direct the Pageant of Scottish Youth for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee at Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh. Three thousand young people from every local authority poured onto the field on floats representing their area as did the voluntary organisations.

The aim of the day was to celebrate this very special occasion by showing and increasing the opportunities for young people, a subject very close to Prince Philip’s heart. An exhibition – Opportunity Youth – was run beside the event and stall holders could only take part if they were offering real opportunities for young people. I was escorting Her Majesty round the event. We continually lost Prince Philip as he kept wandering off to ask questions.

At the end of the day Her Majesty the Queen presented the prizes for the numerous events that had taken place.

As I was handing the trophies to her Majesty, I was standing next to Prince Philip who was chatting about each organisation.

He showed a tremendous knowledge and interest in every single aspect of the day and many of his comments had the whole platform party in fits of laughter as shown in the picture, which accompanies this article.

Another link I had with Prince Philip was that, as an HMI in England part of my role was the inspection of youth services and a special responsibility for the voluntary organisations including The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

Prince Philip always showed a keen interest in their progress and how those with disabilities or difficulties could take part as fully as possible. Even at a garden party he asked me about a particular expedition which was for young people with learning difficulties.

He was particularly amused to find that I had spent a freezing night in a tent in six inches of water one cold November.

The spot was not very well chosen and unfortunately, we were pitching tents in darkness, but I could not influence any of this as the Duke of Edinburgh teaches young people to be independent and learn from their experiences.

The youth workers in charge helped them the next day to work out where they went wrong, and all agreed that they had a great time and were ready for the next challenge.

The Pageant presentation in Edinburgh during the couple’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977.