Remembering our brush with royalty

IT WAS a bit overcast and heavy rain was expected, but the weather held perfectly when a young Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, landed at Evans Head and were escorted to Lismore this time 58 years ago.

As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years as a monarch this week, Lismore and Casino remember the visit of our head of state to regional Australia.

John Alcorn of Lismore has been a volunteer at the Richmond River Historical Society since 1956. He was barely 15 years old when the Queen visited, but he remembers the visit as "the most exciting thing to happen in Lismore then - apart from the (1954) floods".

At the time The Northern Star reported the royal couple was received by a crowd of 40,000 people. The excitement was so intense the Keen St barricade was unable to hold back 5000 people and they had to be contained by police.

Some women fainted and children were separated from their parents, The Northern Star reported. Mr Alcorn was among the jubilant crowd who watched the Queen wave to the Northern Rivers community from the balcony of the Gollan Hotel at the intersection of Woodlark and Keen Sts.

"I was in one of the pictures published by The Northen Star that day," Mr Alcorn said.

"Everyone around came up to Lismore. The first day the Queen and the duke arrived we had a big parade and assembly at the showgrounds. Most people were able to see them when they arrived in the car, but then they came out to the balconies. It must have been just after sunset, as I remember that the street lights were on."

Queen Elizabeth II visited East Lismore Public School and addressed the students, as always followed by a very excited crowd of local people.

Lismore residents and the Queen did not anticipate the now infamous floods of 1954 were about to hit the Northern Rivers.

"The Queen was very, very lucky to be able to get out of here," Mr Alcorn said.

"She was escorted to Casino, from where she flew out to visit Dubbo."

The rain started falling as the royal couple prepared to leave. The following day's newspaper was filled with pictures of Lismore flooded with water from the Wilsons River as well as photos of ruined decorations that had been carefully prepared to mark the Queen's visit.

Mr Alcorn confirmed that 58 years on he remained a proud monarchist.

"She has done very well. She's done a very good job. I don't know why we would like to have any other head of state," he said.

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