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The Royal Visit - the Queen in Timaru 25 Jan. 1954

The official welcome was held at Ashbury Park, where schools lined up, lunch was at the Grosvenor Hotel, followed by a drive through the city and the party left for the south by steam train.

The visitors left the city by train for Dunedin on 25th Jan. 1954 with Mayor R..E. White to see them off.
What was playing at the Majestic, Regent and State Theatres? 
Majestic -Take me to Town and Young Bess (Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger)

The 1953 tour was her first visit to New Zealand and she made the most of it - travelling to 46 towns and cities. This was a huge occasion for New Zealand and it’s been estimated that three-quarters of all New Zealanders turned out to greet her. The royal party had arrived in Timaru from Longbeach, near Ashburton by car (a 45 mile drive, tar sealed roads all the way as the local council had given the Longbeach Road from State Highway One the royal treatment for the occasion. It was one of the first roads in the district to be sealed and only sealed the road only as far as the farm gate). The main road was lined with people from Ashburton to Timaru. Queen Elizabeth was the first reigning monarch to visit South Canterbury.

At Ashbury Park the Queen and the Duke alighted from their car and walk through the crowd to a dais that had been set up and decorated. Ashbury Park had never looked more beautiful. Seven thousand children from 30 schools cheered frantically and waved flags vigorously as their Sovereign moved past them, smiling and toddling her hand in acknowledgment. The adults 15,000 or more were little less restrained. Ashbury Park was the best setting they had seen. No one would find this difficult to understand. Nature it would appear smiled benignly. A soft blue sky with a wisp of white cloud, a breeze stirring flags to ripples of welcome, green lawns and flowers all bathed in glorious sunshine presented a scene that will not be forgotten. A commemorative tree was planted at Ashbury Park after the excitement of the royal visit by the mayor Mr. R.E. White, on the left side of the walk, half way, at Ashbury Park.

South Canterbury Returned Servicemen paid tribute to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when the Royal visitors left Timaru 25th Jan. At least 530? strong and representatives of servicemen from three wars. It was the biggest parade ever held by South Canterbury Returned Servicemen. The parade commenced at King George Place and was led by the Timaru Municipal Band, marched down Barnard, Woollcombe and Stafford Streets to the station where it arrived at 12: 30 pm. The parade stretched from the Bank of New Zealand to the northern entrance of the station. It was lead by the South African veterans. 

Timaru Herald 26 Jan. 1954 & 9 June 2012 Studholme

Her majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh were entertained at an official luncheon at the Grosvenor Hotel on 25 January 1954. She signed the guest register at The Grosvenor and retired to a guest room for a rest. The Royal Table at the Grosvenor Hotel luncheon was set with fine china and silver. The menu included:

Cream of chicken broth
Baked mountain trout from South Canterbury
Roast Muscovy duckling supplied by Mr J. Coop.
Cold spring lamb and mint sauce with new potatoes, green peas, lettuce salad, beetroot.
Apricot pies, strawberries and whipped cream.
NZ cheddar cheese.
The strawberries came from Mr Bruce Kirkland of Andrewville, Temuka and Timaru firms supplied the meat.

 Ashbury Park 25 Jan. 1954 and possibly Cyril Townsend, National Film Unit cameraman, filmed the 1953-4 royal tour

Did anyone see the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh when they arrived in South Canterbury in January 1954? Where?

Certainly did. Don't recall the exact date but it was during the school holidays in late January. We were taken by parents to Ashbury Park, where we joined our school class mates in an assembly area, and then walked to a designated area for our school, along the driveway of the park. There was some jostling for positions to ensure one could obtain a good view. Amongst madly wavering flags Her Majesty and the Duke drove passed, which seemed to take only a second. We then listened to the official welcome. Marina, June. 2012

I remember clearly as a Brownie assembling with others at Ashbury Park in Timaru to see the Queen and Prince Philip arrive in 1954. The entrance was ornately decorated with flowers and looked very beautiful we thought. We were later in arriving at the park than most but I remember feeling guilty in walking in front of everyone who had been waiting for hours and lining up in the very front row. We had a birds eye view of proceedings at a stage erected on the flat part of he park. Their car stopped on the road in and they walked to the stage for the ceremony. From that moment I was a royalist collecting anything to do with the Royal family!!! They left Timaru by train as my Dad waited at the Timaru Milling Company to take photos as the train went by.
    Re the medal struck for the coronation coronation - yes l remember that and had it for years. l have a feeling another was minted for the death of Queen Mary who died in 1953 too and that was given to us too. l remember thinking at the time how lucky we were to get 2 medals. l have a memory of a folded piece of paper handed out at the time of the death of George 6th and it was edged in black. The other abiding memory is of our school Waimataitai going to the Theatre Royal to watch the Coronation film - in colour! I'm sure that was the first film I had ever seen in colour. And to go with the school that in itself was unheard of then. Pam, June 2012

Yes I did see the Queen and the Duke, we were supposed to see them in Ashbury Park, but we moved into our new house that Xmas and mum took me and my sister down to the bottom end of Grants Road and the Main highway at the bottom of the Showgrounds Hill right beside Loach's Woolstore, (a car-sales yard there now). At the top of the Showgrounds Hill was a huge floral archway and the car came slowly down the hill, and we all waved our little flags at the Queen. We probably got a better view of her than many of the people at Ashbury Park.  The underground toilets in Strathallan Street were all camouflaged with plants etc, it looked like a big huge bush. I am pretty sure that there was a big floral archway on Temuka's main street as well. P. McN.  June 2012

No, I don't remember seeing the Queen. It was January and Mum didn't drive, so I presume we just listened to it on the radio as seemed to be what we did in those days. We had a Mullard radio. Typical of country people. M.T., Woodbury, June 2012

Yes I ( almost) saw the Queen. It was 25 January 1954. A six year old, I was part of the crown standing near the viaduct above Caroline Bay, fluttering my flag, waiting to see the Queen en route to the official function. My parents, as was their nature, did not push towards the front, but stood back, a little group of mother and father, a six year old, a five year old, and three year old twins in the double pushchair. I could not see the road clearly through the crowd but can remember black cars going past, everyone shouting and excitedly waving their flags, and then it was over. I had not seen the Queen, in fact I hadn't really known what to look for. The highlight for me was a booklet produced by Langwood Photographers, Timaru, giving a photographic record of the event, and a further concertina type booklet issued by the Government and distributed through the schools. We also received two medallions. Daphne, June 2012

My parents were down in Timaru the day the Queen and Duke arrived. Have a photo of Mum taken that day at Caroline Bay. Mum has always followed the Queen's activity. Mum and Dad were married in Jan. 1947. My Aunty Enid had the photo below in her photograph album. OB, Sherwood. June 2012

Royal visit to South Canterbury : Timaru, Monday, 25 January 1954  soft cover book 16 pgs captioned b/w photographs published and produced by Langwood Studios, Photographers, 175a Stafford St., Timaru in conjunction with Gordon C Pope, Printer, Church Street, Timaru.   

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The medallions -  the coronation "Crowned Westminster Abbey 2nd June 1953"  and the Royal Visit six months later. These medals were issued to every schoolchild in New Zealand to commemorate the Royal Visit in 1953-54. The hole was for a ring to attach a blue ribbon. The Education Depart. agreed to fund the transport of children to see the Queen and produced 380,000 commemorative medallions which were presented to children in classroom ceremonies.

Headed south! 
 1262 NZR, builders No. 385, entered service November 1953 and was withdrawn July 1969. Bright red carriages were strung behind two brand new Ja Class steam locos, No.1262 and No.1263, built at Dunedin’s NZR Hillside Workshops.

The Queen and Duke were farwelled from the train station and headed south to Dunedin. Patients and staff from Timaru Hospital waited by a railway crossing at Queen Street, near the hospital, to wave to the Queen. The driver of the train had been warned to slow down and he did. The patients were taken there by ambulance, trucks, wheelchairs and private cars. From the Otipua block came four bed patients on the back of a truck. Miss M.G. Moore was the matron. Mr J.C. McKenzie was the medical superintendent. This was something that had been wished for and certainly never thought could possibly come to pass said Mr Hanlin.

By the numbers:

Queen Elizabeth II born 21 April 1926.
On 20 November 1947 she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was born 10 June 1921.
Elizabeth II ascended the throne on February 6, 1952.
Her coronation service took place in 1953. 

 Advice for a successful marriage in 1997 from Prince Philip "Tolerance is the one essential ingredient ... You can take it from me that the Queen has the quality of tolerance in abundance." During a toast to his wife at their golden wedding anniversary.

The royal family has perfected the art of the handshake – neither too tight, nor for too long. There's an art form in stopping to talk for just long enough, moving on without causing offence, being able to think of appropriate responses to - in some cases, surely - the most banal of questions or comments.

Peter McIntyre's Welcome to the Queen

South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project