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‘My mum expected a tirade’: North-east locals remember friendly encounters with Prince Philip at Balmoral

Prince Charles and Princess Anne pushed on a swing by the Duke of Edinburgh, watched by Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral in 1955.
Prince Charles and Princess Anne pushed on a swing by the Duke of Edinburgh, watched by Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral in 1955.

The Royal Family have made no secret of their love of Scotland, particularly Deeside, spending precious weeks at Balmoral Castle during the summer.

For the Queen and Prince Philip, Balmoral represented a refuge, somewhere to bring the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and have as normal a life as possible.

Prince Philip is known to have taken a keen interest in gardening, creating a large vegetable patch on the north side of the castle.

For locals, the royals are familiar figures in the community, accepted without fuss as they have regularly joined in worship at Crathie Kirk.

Today Balmoral Castle’s social media pages displayed a simple black square, prompting an outpouring of grief and some fond recollections from people all over the world.

Alan Wilks shared a family memory of bumping into Prince Philip there.

He wrote: “A number of years ago my mum and dad were back at Balmoral, close to where she was born.

“She decided that being born there entitled them to drive into the private Balmoral estate, near Loch Muick in their Morris Marina.

“On a narrow track on the estate, a Land Rover was coming in the opposite direction.

“There was no passing place. Out of the Land Rover came the driver, the Duke of Edinburgh.

“My mum expected a tirade, but when she explained that she had been born nearby and had merely wanted to visit somewhere to which she had walked as a child, he had a long chat with her about life at Balmoral in the war years, told them they were welcome to continue their drive thought his land and then reversed his Land Rover to let the Morris Marina pass.”

Also on social media, Ian Smith recalled another royal encounter.

He said: “I met Prince Philip once whilst I was running on a remote track at Balmoral.

“A Range Rover pulled up behind me [and I heard] ‘what the bloody hell are you doing young man?'”

When Mr Smith responded that he was training for rugby, the duke said “good man” before waving and driving off “at speed”.

The Braemar Gathering was an annual fixture for the royal couple, with Prince Philip’s enjoyment and enthusiasm often evident – especially during the inter-service events.

David Geddes, president of the  Braemar Royal Highland Society said: “The Braemar Royal Highland Society extends our deepest sympathy to our patron Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family.

“It was an honour and a privilege to welcome HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to the Gathering each year up until his retirement from public duty.”

Elgin City South councillor John Divers met the duke in 1969 during his own Navy career while serving on the HMS Eagle aircraft carrier – before later meeting him again during a royal visit to RAF Kinloss.

He said: “I was in the Queen’s colour guard at the time and we had just returned from America.

“He was a fine guy. I just remember him asking a lot of straight questions left, right and centre but the Navy was his thing, that was his domain.”

The Highlands and islands, equally beloved by the Queen and Prince Philip, have been no less impacted by the Duke’s passing.

The Duke of Edinburgh at the opening of Alness Library 1974. Supplied by High Life Highland

Inverness West councillor Alex Graham said: “I was privileged to meet Prince Philip when they re-opened the Highlanders’ Museum at Fort George in March 2013.

“His bearing was very impressive, as was his stamina.

“He walked around the museum for almost two hours without a break, meeting staff and guests  – no mean feat for a man of his age.”

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in Portree. 1956. Supplied by High Life Highland

On council buildings, flags have been lowered to half-mast, and will remain so until 6pm on day of the duke’s funeral.

Meanwhile, politicians and councillors from across the north have come together to pay tribute to Prince Philip and his life-time of service.

SNP MP Drew Hendry added: “My deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and to the wider Royal Family at this difficult time.

“Prince Philip’s commitment to public service will be fondly remembered by all.”

Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber said the duke’s contribution and service will live on for generations.

He said: “I’m deeply saddened by the news that Prince Philip has died.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Her Majesty The Queen who has lost her beloved husband – a life partner and a constant companion.

“My thoughts are also with the wider Royal Family, especially the Duke of Edinburgh’s children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

“Prince Philip dedicated his life to public service and made a significant contribution to our country. His commitment and devotion to The Queen will be remembered by people across Scotland, the UK and the world.”

Provost of Thurso, councillor Struan Mackie, added: “Throughout his long and remarkable life The Duke of Edinburgh served his crown, his country and the Commonwealth with great distinction.

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland spoke of how the prince dedicated his lifetime to transforming the lives of many.

He said: “The death of the Duke of Edinburgh marks the end of an era in the life of our nation.

“Prince Philip’s naval service to our country in time of war, and his enormous service to the nation afterwards, and his support of many organisations and charities in industry, education, conservation and sport have been an example to many.

“Throughout his long life, Prince Philip has shown how privilege ought to be marked by service. In his dedicated and distinctive way, he has shown our nation what this looks like, and what kind of difference it can make.

“The inception of the Duke of Edinburgh Award to recognise significant leadership and community service in the lives of young people has inspired generations to look to ways to make a difference in communities and the wider world.

“The award has transformed the lives of many young people, giving a sense of confidence and self-worth through achievement and hard work.”

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