Prince Philip’s passing stirs memories of Sarnia royal visit

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth visit Sarnia. July 3, 1959. Image from Sarnia's official scrapbook, taken by the late Doug Paisley, shared by Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

The flags at Sarnia city hall, the fire halls and Centennial Park were lowered to half-mast in honor of Prince Philip who died Friday morning at the age of 99.

Mayor Mike Bradley said there are still many Sarnians who remember when the Queen and Prince Philip visited the city on the Royal Yacht Britannia 62 years ago.

“I shared from the official scrapbook of the city, the visit pictures from July 3rd, 1959,” said Bradley. “It was very, very, memorable. Over 100,000 people came out, from a population of about 50,000, to salute the Queen and Prince Philip. It was the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, so the Royal Yacht Britannia went the entire length of the seaway, stopping at communities to honour this great occasion, which changed our economy and in fact changed Sarnia dramatically.”

Mayor Bradley said people came from across the border and the region to get a glimpse of the royal couple.

“When they came to Sarnia they docked at the Imperial Oil dock and then there was a massive parade through the community where there was a huge gathering of people to pay tribute to the Queen and to Prince Philip. It was a defining moment, I’m told, for people of that generation.”

Bradley said although the visit was brief, only lasting about an hour-and-a-half, it left a lasting imprint on the minds of many.

“Prince Philip was his candid self. The rumour over the years was that he got off the boat and said, “what’s that smell?”, in reference to the local industry here. He was a blunt individual from all reports, but over the years he earned a lot of respect for being so supportive of the Queen and she’s made it very clear over the years that he was her rock.”

At the direction of the Office of the Prime Minister, Canadian flags will be lowered from now until sunset on the day of the funeral or memorial service to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.