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Grenville Johnston: Prince Philip could empathise with anyone and was always smiling

Author Grenville Johnston (left) welcomes Prince Philip to Gordonstoun School in 2014
Author Grenville Johnston (left) welcomes Prince Philip to Gordonstoun School in 2014

His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh had a long and happy connection with Moray and we have been fortunate to see him here on many occasions.

While at Gordonstoun School he learnt a great deal about Moray and so many places were familiar to him. He was Honorary Air Commodore of Royal Air Force Kinloss until it closed. He visited the Base regularly and came with Her Majesty the Queen to visit 39 Engineer Regiment and RAF Lossiemouth. I recall one of his detectives saying to me that coming down to Moray from Balmoral with the Duke of Edinburgh was like having your own tourist guide. He knew so much about the whole area.

Prince Philip is smiling in nearly every photograph I have of him

In his capacity as Honorary Colonel of The Queen’s Own Highlanders, the duke presented the Colours of 2nd 51st Highland Volunteers to the Battalion in the Cooper Park in June 1986. There is a plaque on the wall of what is now the Library to commemorate that event.

We also had the pleasure of welcoming Her Majesty and HRH to Gordonstoun to open the new Sports Centre. He also paid another visit when he was filmed reminiscing about his school days in Moray, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Prince Philip in pictures: The Duke of Edinburgh and his visits to the north and north-east

Prince Philip knew Cooper Park very well because he had played hockey there while at school. Indeed, he played hockey there against my own father which he found amusing when I told him. I recall him saying to me, as we marched out to inspect the Battalion: “How did you manage to persuade the Cricket Club to allow you to parade on their pitch?”

The Duke of Edinburgh could empathise with anybody

As Hon Air Commodore of RAF Kinloss the duke had the sad task of attending at the base when the crew of a Nimrod crashed and had to be brought home. In particular, the way he managed to help defuse the overwhelming grief of 250 grieving relatives waiting in the ante- room in the Officers’ Mess for the repatriation of the crew of XV230 showed how magnificently he could empathise with anybody.

And that was what I found every time I had the good fortune to meet HRH. He was thoroughly interested in everyone and everything they did. He is smiling in nearly every photograph I have of him.

Grenville Johnston (left) served as Lord Lieutenant of Moray until 2020 (Photo: Jason Hedges)

Of course, his Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme started life as The Moray Badge and so we can be proud of that connection as well.

When aviation museum Morayvia wanted to name their Nimrod in Prince Philip’s honour, we approached his office and he could not have been more helpful and pleased. He even suggested we put his crest on the tailfin which was done and the aircraft will be a lasting memorial to him.

Grenville Johnston is the former Lord Lieutenant of Moray

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