The University of Otago has hosted numerous visiting dignitaries over the years, from a Thai princess to Samoan and Malaysian cabinet ministers to the Crown Prince of Brunei. But the biggest occasion for celebrity star-power was undoubtedly 18 March 1970, when the Queen visited the Dunedin campus, bringing with her the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The University Photographic Unit was on hand to record proceedings – these photographs come from a wonderful album they put together, now held in the archives of the University Registry at the Hocken.
The 1970 royal tour of New Zealand did not attract the remarkable fervour of the Queen’s visit of 1952-1953, but it did bring up some milestones. This was the first time the royals completed informal “walkabouts” to meet the public, and it was the first visit of Prince Charles (then 21 years old) and Princess Anne (19 years) to this country. The royals fitted several activities into their one day in Dunedin. After an official civic welcome at the Oval, attended by more than 20,000 people, they visited patients at Wakari Hospital. Charles and Anne then attended a “Young People’s Civic Luncheon” at the University Union. A couple of hours later their parents joined them for a tour of the university. In the evening the family attended a NZBC symphony orchestra concert, which featured an acclaimed performance from the young soprano Kiri Te Kanawa. Though nobody informed the audience, the royals and organisers were put on edge that evening by a couple of anonymous threats of bombs at the Town Hall.
Students of 1970 evidently had mixed feelings about royalty: their welcome was “restrained but warm” reported the Evening Star. One group brandished a Welsh flag that attracted the attention of the young Prince of Wales and his father; but the most vocal students were the group of 60 or so who performed a haka on the balconies of the top floors of Unicol and sang various songs, including the national anthem and “God save the Queen,” along with the less respectful “Why was she born so beautiful” and “Why are we waiting”. Critic reported the visit in its usual cynical style: Princess Anne “hid a nice-looking figure in lousy clothes” (described in the Otago Daily Times as “a brown dress and crescent-shaped hat of gathered aqua chiffon banded with brown”); while Prince Charles was mocked for reportedly informing an anthropology student that “there isn’t any pre-history in New Zealand.”
After chatting with students in the Union, the royals toured various parts of the campus, including the library, chemistry labs in the Interim Science Building, and design and foods labs at the Home Science School. Everywhere they went, they engaged people in conversation about their studies; international students fielded questions about adapting to life in New Zealand. Students reported the visitors to be friendly and easy to talk with. The Queen was, claimed the Evening Star, “particularly impressed” with the fraction collector being used by Peter Elder in the chemistry research lab. Judging by the photo below, I’m not convinced that she was equally “impressed” with the university’s gift of its recently published centenary history, presented in the Council Chamber, where she met senior university staff and council members. I wonder if she ever read it?
Do you remember the royal tour of 1970? Can you help identify any of the students in these photographs?