Just as Melbourne today prepares for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Duke of Edinburgh, on 26 February 1954, Hamilton was itself buzzing with excitement for a much-anticipated visit by the royal couple. Mt Gambier and Hamilton were the only towns in the region chosen for a visit by the new Queen, despite much lobbying by nearby towns. The inter-town rivalry preceding the visit was immense. Headlines in the Portland Guardian at the time included “Number One Priority for Royal Visit Should Have Been Portland’s” and “No Royal Visit an Insult to Portland”
On the big day, The Argus printed a map of the best place to catch a glimpse of the Queen and the Duke.
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke were met at the Hamilton airport by the Shire of Dundas President, Cr. H.R.A. Bull and his wife and around 1000 eager locals. The plane had been scheduled to arrive at 3.55pm. The royal party then moved on to Hamilton’s Melville Oval, where around 13,000 school children had been assembled, some since 8.00am.
Along with the school children were several thousand others, many travelling long distances for the celebrations. The Canberra Times reported there were 50,000 people present.
After being met by Mayor Cr. R.S White and Town Clerk H.F. Donald and their wives, the royal couple drove around Melville Oval before returning to the airport for a flight to Melbourne.
This would have to have been one of the biggest days in Hamilton’s history. In my own lifetime, I cannot recall a similar turnout for an event of any kind in Hamilton.