Queensland Outbackers remember the royal visit during the brutal drought and the Queen's Christmas presents

Queensland Outbackers remember the royal visit during the brutal drought and the Queen’s Christmas presents

Breeder Rosemary Champion is among the few people who can say they hosted Queen Elizabeth for lunch at their home.

The late monarch made the trip to Longreach, inland Queensland, in 1970, amidst one of the region’s worst droughts.

“It was a very big event for a small town,” Ms. Champion said.

“A lunch was organized for about 100 people on our cattle farm and it was hot: it was mid-April and it was a drought like no other.”

The city went to great lengths to cater to royal diets, but in the end Queen Elizabeth only drank a glass of orange juice.

A smiling elderly woman stands in the sun, wearing a hat.
Rosemary Champion has fond memories of the Queen’s visit to Longreach.(ABC Western Queensland: Victoria Pengilley)

The trip left an indelible mark on the country and the royal family, who were struck by the remoteness of the landscape.

“Knowing he came from this lush, verdant countryside and was in the middle of the hinterland … [Her Majesty] he said, ‘Where else in the world can you look 360 degrees and see nothing artificial?’ “Ms. Champion said.

“It was a time I will never forget and it made us feel special.

“He left a lasting legacy throughout this community.”

Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Stockman's Hall of Fame in 1988 in Longreach.
Queen Elizabeth II officially opened Stockman’s Hall of Fame in 1988 in Longreach.(Features: Stockman Hall of Fame)

The informality of the Outback on display

Residents across the Queensland region are reflecting on their memories and interactions with Queen Elizabeth following her death at the age of 96.

Ms. Champion said her father, Sir James Walker, struck an unlikely friendship with the Queen on her first visit in 1970 and laid the groundwork for a second visit in 1988 to open Stockman’s Hall of Fame.

He said the people of the bush had a hard time coping with royal protocol, including when his father cheered the queen three times.

“People used to say, ‘You can’t say that in the presence of Her Majesty,'” said Ms. Champion.

“He said, ‘Well, this is my city and I can very well say what I like.’

“It’s the way we do things in the bush.”

Newspaper pictures of a rodeo.
Mount Isa hosted a “royal rodeo” during the 1970 visit.(Provided)

The royal tour continued all the way to Mount Isa in 1970, with more than 6,000 children traveling to the mining town to welcome the royals for a 23-hour tour of red clay and rodeo land.

The headlines in the local newspaper reflected the excitement of the country town and noted how relaxed the royal couple were during their visit inland.

“Royal Party Informality Stuns Crowds in Silence,” reads a North West Star headline, stating that the locals were “surprised by the immediate informality and casual friendliness” displayed by the royal couple.

At the time, Princess Anne was praised for embracing life inland when she helped herd 1,200 head of sheep at Talbarea station near Cunnamulla and appeared “relentless from the dust and flies.”

A man wearing a funky hat and shirt staring into the distance.
Yeppoon’s club Bill Oram has fond memories of working for Queen 40 years ago.(ABC Capricornia: Katrina Beavan)

Meeting with His Majesty

Central Queensland agricultural science teacher Bill Oram has fond memories of working for the queen more than 40 years ago.

In 1980, at the age of 18, the Baralaba venue went to Buckingham Palace to work for the queen after writing to her months asking for a job in her stables.

Mr. Oram, now a resident of Yeppoon, worked as a stable boy for Prince Philip’s carriage-driving team for nearly two years.

“It was an amazing opportunity and one that hardly anyone gets,” he said.

“It was a good memory, I often have some reason to think about those days.

“It was really amazing, I learned a lot and saw a lot of things that I would never have seen anywhere else.”

A sepia photo of a shirtless young man in a cowboy hat bending over and washing a horse.
Bill Oram washed Harrier, a Cleveland Bay red mare, while working in Prince Philip’s stables.(Included: Bill Oram)

Mr. Oram’s extraordinary memory was receiving a Christmas present from the Queen.

“Just before Christmas, we would have a garden party or a cocktail party or something and each of us would be individually introduced to the queen, she wished us well and thanked us for the year’s work and would give us that gift. “he said he said.

“He had that strength, and outwardly he showed that kind of strong will, but I think he had a really caring nature.”

Two elderly women sitting side by side.
Pat Mifsud and Dawn Allis reflect on seeing the queen during her regional visit to Queensland in 1970.(ABC North Queensland: Jessica Naunton)

Flight visits to Mackay and Hughenden

Townsville resident Pat Mifsud first met the queen at the Mackay showground when he visited her in 1954 and again in 1970.

“She and Philip were in this beautiful big limo and, to tell the truth, I was too busy looking at it – I haven’t seen it,” Ms. Mifsud said.

“The second time my children were small and we took them.

“He had Anne and Charles with him that time and I said goodbye to Charles – just ‘how are you’ and he replied as he walked.

“He was kind of a shy person.”

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Queen Elizabeth II as the last diplomat

Dawn Allis and her family traveled from Hughenden in Flinders County to Townsville to see the Queen in 1970.

“The railroad has put on a special train to take the children and their parents to Townsville to see the Queen,” Ms. Allis said.

“The hospital daughter’s director was the same age as my eldest daughter, and she wanted to go too, so I had three girls in tow to visit the queen and they thought it was wonderful.

“We were lucky enough to be at the forefront of the past drive.

“She was so beautiful, perfectly dressed in a matching hat.

“She promised when she became the queen that she would give her life to be the queen and she did – and she was a good mother.”

An elderly man holds a letter from the queen in his hand.
Tom Barry said he had nothing but admiration for Queen Elizabeth II.(ABC Tropical North: Lillian Watkins)

The letter for the 100th anniversary

Mackay man Tom Barry is one of the few who can say he was born in the same era as Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite stark differences in their upbringing, Mr. Barry said he shares parallels with the queen in weathering the storms of the 20th century.

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