More than the Parkway: N.L. remembers Prince Philip and decades of connections

·6 min read
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth during a visit to Newfoundland and Labrador on the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival.  (CBC - image credit)
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth during a visit to Newfoundland and Labrador on the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival. (CBC - image credit)
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth during a visit to Newfoundland and Labrador on the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival.
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth during a visit to Newfoundland and Labrador on the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's arrival. (CBC)

Prince Philip has many connections to Newfoundland and Labrador, from a main thoroughfare named after him in the province's capital city, to private trips to Government House and stopovers at the air force base in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

His name is featured, among other things, on Prince Philip Drive — often known as the Parkway — which runs along many prominent institutions in St. John's, including Confederation Building, Memorial University and the Health Sciences Centre.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who died Friday at 99, is remembered fondly by those who met him during his numerous formal and informal visits to the province.

That includes a 1951 visit to a legendary officers' club in St. John's, which to this day posts a photograph of the prince.

On Nov. 11, 1951, Philip walked through the doors of the Crow's Nest Officers' Club, just steps from the National War Memorial between Water Street and Duckworth Street.

Arrangements were made by former Lt. Gov. Leonard Outerbridge for Philip to make a private visit to the historic club, where his presence was kept quiet — no media allowed and members only in attendance, keeping formalities to a minimum. Philip signed the guest book and became an honorary lifetime member.

Prince Philip became an honourary lifetime member of the Crow's Nest Officers' Club in 1951.
Prince Philip became an honourary lifetime member of the Crow's Nest Officers' Club in 1951. (Crow's Nest Officers' Club/Twitter)

Gary Walsh, immediate past president of the Crow's Nest Officers' Club and chairperson of the property committee, told CBC Radio's On The Go many more visits to the club would follow between 1951 and Philip's final visit in June 1997, while in N.L. to celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Cabot's landfall.

"The number of RCMP security there was quite heavy. A sniffer dog came in and checked out the room looking for explosives. [They] didn't find any, of course. That was good," Walsh said.

"Sure enough, he came in to a rousing ovation. He was among friends, and he got a drink and then he went around the room and he spoke to everybody."

Walsh remembers Philip as being a "very pleasant man" who enjoyed discussing some of the club's naval artifacts. Philip had long served with the British Royal Navy, reaching the rank of commander in 1952.

"Our periscope was there, he had a look at that," Walsh said. "He could relate to a lot of the memorabilia there because they were military and naval related."

This picture of Prince Philip in 1997 hangs on the wall at Crow's Nest Officers' Club. Next to it is a photo of his first visit to the club in 1951.
This picture of Prince Philip in 1997 hangs on the wall at Crow's Nest Officers' Club. Next to it is a photo of his first visit to the club in 1951.(Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The Duke's award

The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award celebrates young people's achievements, with goal-based, hands-on learning in a variety of interests. Programs are in place around the world. The program was introduced to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1974 during the 25th anniversary of Confederation with Canada.

John Perlin, a retired public servant who had been the province's director of protocol, was tasked with planning the visit, which took place in Gander and hosted about 900 people.

Perlin said Friday he asked the province to make a contribution to establish the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award program for Newfoundland and Labrador, instead of commissioning an artwork or other gift. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador came back with $10,000, he said.

"Newfoundland has subsequently become, on the basis of population, one of the major participants," said Perlin. "It was a very significant visit in that respect."

Years later, in 1978 as president of the Royal St. John's Regatta Committee, Perlin would convince the members to change the date of the annual boat races to coincide with a royal visit marking the Queen's silver jubilee.

"As a result the Queen and Prince Philip made two visits. ... The first time was in the morning, then they came back after the garden party at Government House to present some awards," he said.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Awards first came to Newfoundland in 1974, the year Prince Philip visited the province to mark the 25th anniversary of Confederation.
The Duke of Edinburgh's Awards first came to Newfoundland in 1974, the year Prince Philip visited the province to mark the 25th anniversary of Confederation.(CBC)

Trudy Carlisle, executive director for the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in N.L., first met Philip 24 years ago in the receiving line during a ceremony where the Duke of Edinburgh personally presented 75 gold awards to young residents.

"He took the time to individually shake each one of their hands, and speak to them individually about what was going on with them, what they had done to achieve their award," Carlisle told CBC Radio's CrossTalk.

"For each of them, that really made an impact on their experience that day."

Philip will leave behind a legacy as being longest-serving royal consort in British history, but Carlisle said the shining point is his work with the award program under his namesake.

"I can't think of any greater legacy to leave behind than having an impact on the development of millions of young people all over the world who have taken part in the award," she said. "He truly believed in the potential of all youth, and that's truly what the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is all about."

Royal fans remember

Crystal Rose of Corner Brook dressed appropriately for Friday's sombre occasion. A royal watcher and collector of royal family memorabilia since she was young, a hobby shared with her mother and grandmother, she dressed completely in black, including a fascinator on her head.

Crystal Rose of Corner Brook is a royal watcher and memorabilia collector.
Crystal Rose of Corner Brook is a royal watcher and memorabilia collector. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

"I think people really looked up to him. Obviously his longevity was quite remarkable," Rose told CBC News. "I think he was just such an inspiration, that he was able to be such a support to the Queen for so long. They had the longest royal marriage in recorded history. I think people really saw how special their relationship really was."

Rose said fans of the Royal Family are thinking of the Queen, and are concerned about her health now that she doesn't have her husband of nearly 74 years at her side.

She said there's also wonder surrounding how Philip will be honoured given that the world is still in the middle of a pandemic.

"Obviously you can't have a giant state funeral," Rose said. "I have heard he didn't really want that. He was a private person. So I'm really curious to see how they will honour him."

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