The Prescotian Webzine

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THE ROYAL VISIT by H.R.H. PRINCE PHILIP DUKE OF EDINBURGH AT PRESCOT SCHOOL

An account by ARTHUR R WHITAKER [1935-41] Foundation Governor

A rumour had circulated for some time that a 'royal personage' was to visit Prescot in February. One could be forgiven for thinking this was a mistake and possibly a confusion with the visit by the Duke of Gloucester who only a few weeks previously had come to the Parish Church to mark the successful completion of major renovation work and to inaugurate the return of the bells. Incidentally, it is interesting to record that the bells had their first test ringing on the very morning of the School's 450th Founder's Day service.

However, there had been no mistake and early in February it was confirmed that the DUKE OF EDINBURGH would officially open the new sports hall to commemorate the 450th Anniversary of the Foundation of the School. What a memorable climax to the historic celebrations this turned out to be and how gratifying it was to be selected, along with other Foundation Governors, to meet the Prince on this special occasion. The date arranged was Friday 24th February and from the outset it was clear that meticulous planning and stringent secunty would be necessary. Consequently, tickets were allocated in such a way as to try fairly to cover the many who would wish to be present on this great day.

Punctually at 10.20am on the appointed day, the royal limousine, escorted by police out-riders swept into the school drive and up to the main entrance. Prince Philip was met by the Mayors of Knowsley and Prescot, senior representatives of the Council, the Chairman of Governors and the Headteacher Formalities of introduction completed, the Prince, with Ihe Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Alan Williams Esquire, accompanied by the welcoming party, made his way into the school where he met other senior members of staff. As the Prince entered the building, his personal standard was broken on the flagstaff. During a tour of the school he saw displays of art and technology, the new science laboratory and the computer laboratory where pupils were engaged in their studies. On the way he had met more members of staff and pupils.

Our invitations called for us to be in the library where, with representatives of other recognised and associated bodies, we were to meet the Prince.

The arrival of a phalanx of journalists and photographers heralded his approach and we had settled in our appointed positions when the Prince entered He made his way directly to a very special guest who was to present rum with a blue morocco-bound and inscribed copy of the newly updated History of the School. What a pleasure it was to witness Geoffrey Dixon, true representative and doyen of the old P G.S., as he made such a charming presentation. Who but he could have engaged Prince Philip in such animated and easy conversation ? They might have been friends for years !

Once the royal party left the library, we proceeded lo the new sports hal where the mam body of guests had enjoyed displays of dancing and music by pupils of the School. His Royal Highness accompanied by the Household and Lieutenancy parties and escorted by the Headteacher soon arrriving. On his arrival in the hall, the Prince was entertained by a splendid programme of sports and physical education routines to the accompaniment of music performed by the School Orchestra. Brief formalities followed and Gary Cheesman, Chairman of Governors, in his short speech invited our Royal Guest to unveil a commemorative plaque and to sign the Visitors' Book. Prince Philip moved to the microphone and among his remarks, to the obvious delight of the pupils present, he suggested that a 450th Birthday deserved an extra day's holiday.

After the departure of the royal visitor, the morning was rounded off by an invitation for all the guests to proceed to the library for refreshments where, much to our astonishment, we received a copy of ths school newspaper - hot from ths press and reporting in full the details of the royal visit. There was even a photograph of the Prince's arrival. This edition had been prepared and edited by pupils of the school and thus was written another memorable chapter in the annals of the ancient foundation which is Prescot School.


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