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1920 - The King of England visits Nambour

The details for this account of Prince Edward's visit to Nambour were taken from The Chronicle. issues of 6-8-1920, page 7, and 13-8-1920, page 4.

Well, he wasn’t the King of England yet, but he would become King Edward VIII sixteen years after he visited Nambour in 1920.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor, late uncle of our present Queen, was invested as His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales when he reached the age of sixteen in June 1910, a few weeks after his father’s accession as King George V. He was officially known as Prince Edward, but was always David to his closest friends.

Prince Edward in full-dress uniform as a Colonel in the Welsh Guards

He performed active service in World War I, and saw how the nations of the British Empire had come to the aid of the ‘Mother Country’ in its time of need, and had made a valuable contribution to victory in 1918. After the war, the Royal Family and the British Government sent him on tour to the dominions of the British Empire, to thank those nations officially for their huge sacrifices in what was then called the ‘Great War’. In 1919 he visited Canada. 

The Prince of Wales rigged up as 'Chief Morning Star' during his tour of Canada in 1919

In May 1920 the 26 year old Prince came to Australia and New Zealand with his 20 year old cousin Dickie (Lord Louis Mountbatten) on the same mission. The two young men arrived here on the battle cruiser HMS Renown and and the royal party toured extensively.

David and Dickie skylarking in a canvas bath on HMS Renown

Wherever he went public holidays were declared, receptions and balls held, foundation stones laid and memorials unveiled. The prince made a point of meeting as many ex-servicemen and women as possible and speaking with them. On 28 May he shook hands with 20 000 people and next day was black and blue from the affectionate pats which his future subjects had lavished upon him.

The tour was long and strenuous, but the Royal visitors broke the monotony by hunting kangaroos on horseback and attending parties, at one of which Prince Edward was involved in a pillow fight. He was a qualified air force pilot, and often took the controls of steam engines pulling his Royal Trains while here. Immense distances were travelled across all of Australia. On the journey from Sydney to Perth the train was derailed and the Prince’s carriage overturned. He was discovered reclining in the wreckage of his luxurious compartment, smiling and smoking a cigar. He then emerged from the debris and cheerfully remarked, “At last we have done something that was not on the official program.”

In New South Wales the Royal Train brought the Prince's party up through Armidale to the Queensland border at Wallan-garra. There they transferred to a Queensland Railways Royal Train, hauled by C18 class 4-8-0 steam locomotive No. 693, named Sir William MacGregor after a previous Governor of Queensland (1909 - 1914). The train brought them through Toowoomba to the capital. In Brisbane Prince Edward was given a live koala which 'wept so piteously for its former owner that it had to be returned with a polite note.'

C18 locomotive No. 693, Sir William MacGregor

The Royal Train, with the same locomotive, then headed north. It took the Prince's party overnight to Maryborough, where a brief visit of 50 minutes was made before the intrepid travellers were returned south again. The train was due to arrive at Nambour Railway Station late in the afternoon of Monday, 2nd August, and preparations were made the day before to make his visit a memorable one.

 The Chronicle stated, “Many were the regrets that the old station would make a very poor showing, but the work of the decorators put on by the Shire Council soon effected a transformation. On the railway platform piccabeen palms and the leaves of fan palms had been placed at intervals very effectively, and the building, waiting room and exit had received a liberal share of bunting and greenery. The open space outside was also lined with palms, and flags and more palms carried the scheme into the adjacent Station Square and out to the main street, Currie Street.

Nambour Railway Station in 1920, with the Royal Hotel in the background.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Nambour Town Hall in 1917. The auditorium behind was used as a cinema.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Station Square in 1917, with shops and the Nambour Railway Station behind. The building at left is the auditorium section of the Nambour Town Hall, seen in the previous picture. The shop at right, D. Murtagh's Hairdressers (note striped barber's post), was owned by a Mr Kent. It was severely damaged in the Town Hall fire of 1929. The Shire Council purchased the site and the damaged buildings were auctioned for removal in 1931, thus clearing and enlarging the Square. {8-5-31, p.2} There is kerbing to the footpaths, but the paths and streets are unsealed.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

 Looking north up Currie Street in 1920. The Club Hotel is in the left foreground. In the centre background is the twin-gabled Nambour Town Hall, with Kent's Building to its right. Kent's building was later demolished to create Station Square. In 1920 it housed D. Murtagh's Hairdressers. The two-storeyed Royal Hotel can be seen at the bend in the street.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Station Square in 1932, still unsealed. The Nambour Town Hall and its cinema previously at left are gone, having burned down in 1929. Kent's building has been removed in 1931 after suffering damage in the Town Hall fire, doubling the open space. Electricity had been connected to the town in 1927 and now there are some street lights. Just out of camera range at left is the new Maroochy Shire Hall, opened in April 1931.The Nambour Railway Station is behind. This is the area where Prince Edward addressed the crowd.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

A raised dais was placed in the square from which the Prince would address the expected throng of admirers. The specially constructed platform was shaded by two fine tree-ferns, and had two large flags above, one of them being the Maroochy Shire’s Honour Flag won in the Seventh War Loan campaign. The framework was wrapped in patriotic colours, while strips of carpet led up the entering gangway and down the other.”

All of the local people were looking forward to ‘Prince Day’, and all through the morning country folk made their way into Nambour by horse, motor car and train. Numerous people were brought into town by special Mapleton Trams organized by the Shire Council, and trams organized by the Moreton Central Sugar Mill brought people from Coolum and Bli Bli.

From the raised platform, a rope stretched across to the Ambulance shelter shed, thus reserving the space between it and the station for returned soldiers and veterans on the south side, and mothers, widows, children and wives of soldiers on the north.

The school children of the Nambour Rural School, with Head Teacher Mr R. W. Steele, were allotted the space on the green between the rope and the Royal Hotel. The Nambour Town Band was given a position behind the soldiers and played some pieces while waiting, including “God bless the Prince of Wales”.

By the time of his expected arrival, 4:23 pm, over 2000 people had gathered in Station Square, and there they waited, packed tightly. There were about 300 returned soldiers, about half in uniform, and many were wearing their war ribbons and decorations. On the right of the Diggers were about twelve veterans from other wars, mostly from the Boer War, and 75 year old Thomas Nicholls was there. He had served with distinction in the 1878-80 Afghan Campaign.

Facing the soldiers, across what was now a narrow path between the station and the raised platform, were about 100 ladies and children, the relatives of fallen soldiers. The Nambour Chronicle reported:

“All was expectancy when a whistle was heard, but it only proved to be the pilot train which preceded the Royal Train from station to station, leaving for the next station only when the Royal Train left the one before. After a few minutes a white-fronted locomotive was seen coming out of the cutting across the long bridge. This white front proved to be the Prince’s coat-of-arms, and the engine also wore conspicuous Prince of Wales Feathers on its side and tender. The train drew through the station until the last carriage, containing His Royal Highness, Admiral Sir Lionel Halsey and Hon. L. E. Groom representing the Commonweath Government, was opposite the entrance door, where the Nambour officials were waiting. The Prince of Wales [alighted. He] was wearing a light grey suit and hat, and carried a cane.

“Mr Groom presented to Prince Edward the chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council, Councillor W. H. Harvey, who expressed a hearty welcome on behalf of the people of the Shire. Cr Harvey then presented his fellow Councillors and the Shire Clerk Mr A.H. Brookes, whose Egyptian Campaign ribbon caused the Prince to inquire as to his war service.

“The Prince then led the way into the square, moving towards the cheering mass of people awaiting him until he was level with the far end of the three lines of Diggers. There he gave instructions for these lines to file past him, and each was honoured with a handshake as he passed, those with honours or belonging to the Imperial Service being accorded a few quiet words of enquiry or congratulation. The veterans filed past next, and then the women and children relatives, each receiving a handshake and then returning to their place previously occupied, order being thus preserved.

HRH Prince Edward
Photograph courtesy Kay Donaldson  

HRH Prince Edward, future King of Australia in the light grey suit, lower centre, shakes hands with returned soldiers as he passes through a crowd of admirers in Station Square, Nambour, on 2nd August 1920. In the background can be seen Walsh’s Royal Hotel (left), D. Murtagh’s Hairdressers (centre) and William Whalley’s Universal Stores (right).
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

 “Ahead of the Prince’s party walked a special guard of picked constables, whose work was a treat to watch. Prior to their arrival, some doubt was felt that the rope, or the ambulance shelter to which it was tied, would not be able to sustain the pressure of pushing crowds, but when these big men in blue lined up along it, the pressure seemed to cease at once, removing all anxiety.”

The royal visitor next made his way to the carpeted gangway, where he was presented with bouquets by three little girls (Thelma Pashen, Mary Fallon and Evelyn Eggmolesse) and a box of strawberries. Prince Edward was then given a pineapple “by a little child who had grown it and saved it for the great occasion. Unfortunately it was awkwardly presented, and pricked the hand that took it in the way prickly pineapples do, and it is whispered that as further evidence that the Prince is more human than spiritual, that he used an emphatic word not usually granted more space in a respectable paper than the fourth letter of the alphabet and a stroke. Other people all around enjoyed the incident immensely, and we report it here to checkmate the inevitable exaggerations that have already taken flight.”

Prince Edward, Admiral Halsey and Cr Harvey then ascended the raised platform from where he would address the crowd. There was great cheering and numerous flowers were thrown to the platform. In a clear and pleasant voice, the King’s son said, “I am very pleased indeed to be present to meet so many of you, and thank you very much for your kind welcome. There is no need to remind you of the brave deeds of your soldiers and sailors, and I must thank so many Diggers for coming to see me. To all you school children I have to say that I have asked that you may have an extra holiday some day in honour of my visit. Thank you all very much.”

HRH Prince Edward, future King of Australia, addresses a crowd of admirers from a raised platform outside the Royal Hotel at Station Square, Nambour, on 2nd August 1920. Palm fronds were used for decoration of the environs.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

The Prince then descended from the platform. The constables ensured the way for him back to the train was clear, and he made his way through the cheering crowds back to his carriage, as the band played “God Save the King”. As the train moved out, the Prince stood on the back platform, bowing his acknowledgement with raised hat. The Royal Visit to Nambour, scheduled to take seven minutes, had taken ten. That night, the town celebrated its royal visit with a dance, and everyone spoke with approval and affection for the young prince.

People leaving Station Square after the Prince's train had departed.
Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Libraries

Describing this series of tours many years later, Lord Louis Mountbatten wrote: "On these journeys I got to know my cousin very well indeed. I soon realised that, under the delightful smile which charmed people everywhere, and despite all the fun that we managed to have, he was a lonely and sad person, always liable to deep depressions." Edward had spent many days alone in his cabin on the Renown, seeing no-one except Dickie and hardly eating. Lord Louis had written to his mother, "I am having a great time, but it is very difficult to keep David cheerful. At times he says he'd give anything to change places with me."

Though he was very popular throughout the British Empire as Prince of Wales, Edward’s later life had more than its fair share of sorrow and bitterness, much of it self-inflicted. His father, King George V died on 20th January 1936, and, as he was the eldest son, Edward succeeded him as King Edward VIII.

However, Edward only reigned as King for 325 days and renounced the throne before his coronation. He took this action because he was determined to marry Wallis Simpson, an American woman who was already married to her second husband, and as King he had been advised that as a divorced commoner she would be unacceptable as Queen.

King Edward VIII with Mrs Simpson in 1936

The ex-King Edward VIII, now HRH Prince Edward again, makes his abdication speech from Windsor Castle on 11th December 1936

 His younger brother Albert (Bertie) became King in his place, and took the name King George VI. Edward was made the Duke of Windsor. The people who had loved him felt that he had let them down, choosing his own personal happiness over his duty as King. They immediately transferred their affection and loyalty to King George, and Edward felt compelled to leave England for good. He married Wallis Simpson on 3rd June 1937. As the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, they lived in France in aimless exile until his death in 1972.


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