Recounting Royal visits 

As fundraising continues to celebrate the Queen’s 1954 visit to Te Awamutu, Luke East shares the role residents played in other royal tours. 

The first royal to visit New Zealand was Queen Victoria’s second son Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, who arrived in 1869 on the HMS Galatea.

But the first Te Awamutu involvement came on June 11, 1901, when more than 4000 troops gathered in Auckland to see John Logan Campbell hand over the deed to land around One Tree Hill. It was at this ceremony the Duke of York, the future King George V, thanked New Zealand for its support to Britain during the Boer War and presented Private Dawson of Te Awamutu with a medal.

The next day special train journeys took people from Te Awamutu to Rotorua to join thousands of others at a reception for the Duke of York and his wife Mary.

Nineteen years later, in 1920, the Te Awamutu Municipal Band and the Kihikihi Town Band played at Claudelands in Hamilton at a welcome for George’s son, later King Edward VIII.

At the request of Te Awamutu’s Mayor the day was treated as a public holiday to allow everyone to attend, some 20,000 people from across the Waikato did so. Later at a ceremony in Hastings the Prince took a particular interest in an elderly Englishman who had received his military discharge in Te Awamutu after the Land Wars.

In 1927 Edward’s brother (later George VI) and his wife were welcomed with much fanfare at Claudelands. In the crowd were 4500 children, a large contingent of whom were from Te Awamutu and had left for Hamilton by a special train that morning. At another ceremony 5000 children from across the Waikato, including 200 Girl Guides (many from Te Awamutu) and a number of Boy Scouts, paraded for the royals. Te Awamutu man Mr J.G Holmes was one of their drivers during their time in Hamilton and Constable P.J Doyle of Te Awamutu was seconded to Rotorua for their time there.

By the end of Prince Henry’s 1935 tour New Zealand had been visited by three of the King’s sons in the space of little more than a decade. Lyell, Dick and Len Kay of Te Awamutu were invited to join Henry for a game of polo in Cambridge, where thousands gathered to watch. Earlier at a civic reception in Hamilton he had greeted the mayors of both Te Awamutu and Cambridge and waved to crowds of more than 1000 schoolchildren (including more than 100 from Te Awamutu).

As we approach the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee it is poignant to remember the roles played by the people of Te Awamutu during previous Royal Visits and the connection that our town continues to have to our Royal Family – the most recent royal visit to Waipa in 2014 saw many locals turn out for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Te Awamutu roses were laid by them at the Cambridge cenotaph.

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