The late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, was friends with a Mount Gambier family and made a private visit to their historic home in 1973. The prince died last week at the age of 99 and his funeral is taking place at Windsor Castle in England on Saturday.
He occasionally made solo and unofficial tours and 48 years ago he was hosted by the Livingston family at their Benara homestead. A feature of the property is an underground lake and it was examined by Prince Phillip.
Late bachelor brothers John and Frank Livingston were wealthy farmers and keen yachtsmen and this pastime appears to have led to the friendship with the Royal family’s patriarch.
Several items of correspondence from Prince Phillip are in the Livingston family papers which are held in the State Library of South Australia. The standing in which the Livingstons were held is shown in the personal telegram sent to John by Prince Philip on the occasion of Frank’s death in a car accident in Melbourne 1966.
Earlier In 1963, the two brothers had commissioned Kurrewa V to be built in Britain, a 12-metre yacht which they donated to the British challenge for the 1964 America’s Cup. This gift saw John and Frank become the first men in history outside Britain to be elected to the Royal Yacht Club.
As it turned out, Kurrewa V failed to win the right to challenge against Sovereign, which was subsequently defeated by the Americans. Letters and a telegram about Kurrewa V were sent by Prince Philip to the Livingstons including one signed “Joe” in 1964 when he was aboard the royal yacht Britannia while moored at Portsmouth.
Prince Philip had another seafaring connection with the South East through a fellow war-time Royal Navy officer at Robe. The retired senior sailor lived in retirement in St George’s Cottage on the shores of Guichen Bay and flew the flag of St George each day.
Following his death over a decade ago, Prince Phillip sent a condolence message. Prince Phillip and Queen Elizabeth made an official visit to Mount Gambier in 1954 and a plaque at the local airport marks where the monarch first trod on South Australian soil.
It is said that Mount Gambier’s population of 10,000 grew to over 40,000 people on February 26 of that year due to the influx of visitors. There were 6000 schoolchildren dressed in red, white and blue and they assembled at Vansittart Park.
The royal couple spent two hours in Mount Gambier and then flew to Hamilton. Meanwhile, the death of Prince Phillip has been marked by the Millicent RSL by flying the Australian and Union flags at half-mast at the Cross of Sacrifice.
The Australian flag has been flying at half-mast in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in Millicent. Wattle Range Council arranged a condolence book in 1997 following the death of Princess Diana.
At press time, no decision had yet been made by the council about a similar public gesture for Prince Phillip.