By Bev Jordan
Hills to Hawkesbury Editor and senior journalist Bev Jordan had just started her cadetship on an Essex newspaper in the UK when she was given the job of following Prince Philip when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited town on a cold wet afternoon in 1978.
This is her story:
“I was the youngest journalist (the cub reporter) on the Thurrock Gazette when it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II would be officially opening the new theatre and library complex in Grays.
“The News editor of the Gazette and the senior reporters would follow The Queen and I was given the job of following Prince Philip as he greeted the crowd on the other side of the street.
“I definitely got the better deal.”
“While the reporters following The Queen had to negotiate Royal security and the British Press Pack, I had Prince Philip virtually to myself, as the photograph, by Gazette photographer Ian Billinghurst, will attest.
There was no visible security, just me and The Prince wandering the length of Grays High Street with crowds, at times five-deep, the other side of a safety barrier lining the street showing their delight at the Royal visit.
The Duke of Ediburg was great with the crowds and they absolutely loved having a chat with him.
My job was to record what they said to Prince Philip and what he said to them.
It was raining and I had no way of juggling an umbrella, a notebook and a pen so I didn’t bother with my umbrella and I certainly had to keep my distance from the Royal brolly.
I was terrified of missing the brief to get quotes from the crowd and the Royal VIP so I had to think quickly of how to function with a very soggy notebook and a biro and hundreds of people.
There were no mobile phones in those days and I had no recording device.
My solution was to grab the name and number of at least five people in the crowd he spoke to (and who Ian got photographs of) and speak to them when I got back to the office.
I had to engrave their details onto the soggy notepad.
They trusted my credentials because I wore a pink paper tag on a piece of string attached with a safety pin to my black cardigan that said PRESS and I was on that side of the barrier.
When we finally finished the walk (fortunately close to the Thurrock Gazette office) I raced inside, grabbed a very soft pencil and gently rubbed it over my engraved notes.
It was almost like a brass rubbing exercise.
Fortunately, every single name and phone number I had etched was revealed and I then spent the afternoon phoning around and finding out what they had said to the Prince and confirming what he had said back.
If I hadn’t been so terrified at the time I would have really appreciated the honour I had to watch a true Royal legend in action and witness the effect he had on people of all ages. I would also have appreciated the timely manner that people rushed home to take my call and be part of the Royal Visit story.
When I look at the photo it reminds me of how much journalism, security and Royal protocol has changed over the decades and while I may not have had an umbrella, I did have my handbag over my shoulder for some reason.