News of Prince Leonard of Hutt’s abdication this week reminded me of the great ‘royal visit’ of 1977, when royalty descended on Kalgoorlie. No, not the Queen of England, Prince Leonard of Hutt. This is an excerpt from Heroic Misadventures.
The Queen was visiting Australia in her Jubilee Year and she was going everywhere in Australia, except to Kalgoorlie. We were naturally disappointed. As a result, our Chamber of Commerce organized our own ‘royal tour’, with big banners proudly displayed in all the shop fronts: “In this Jubilee Year, the Royal Tour comes to Kalgoorlie”. Then in a smaller print: “Prince Leonard from the Hutt River Province (near Kalbarri, Western Australia) has been invited for four days for a spectacular royal tour!”
We organized a wonderful tour. The event had a special relevance because Prince Leonard was born and raised in Kalgoorlie. We had both attended Kalgoorlie Central School. (My mother, Nancy, was a teacher there in 1929.)
Consequently, we had great connections with the Kalgoorlie Central School. So I telephoned the Head Mistress, Mrs Henderson, to advise that we had her most famous student coming back to Kalgoorlie. He had even gone out and started his own country, something no other student had done.
As a part of his royal tour he’d like to come back to Kalgoorlie Central School and address all the students. Mrs Henderson was thrilled and organized for all the students to gather on the quadrangle at 10 am so Prince Leonard could address them.
At that time I owned a Volvo with a sun roof. This was perfect for Prince Leonard who was able to stand on the front seat with his head and shoulders through the sunroof waving to all the students.
One of the carpet distributors in Kalgoorlie gave us a roll of red carpet which we had laid out from the car right through to the school. Prince Leonard had co-operated completely with this ceremony and sent us hundreds of miniature Hutt River flags which all the students waved as Prince Leonard arrived to address them. Everyone was thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Suddenly, there was a telephone call from the Minister for Education who wanted to speak to Mrs Henderson. The Minister advised her that under no circumstances was this fellow, Len Casley, posing as Prince Leonard, allowed to go to the school, address the students or be referred to as Prince Leonard.
Mrs Henderson acknowledged she had a problem and quickly returned to the presentation just as I was helping Prince Leonard into the Volvo. Not a student was in sight.
After questioning me as to where all the students had gone, I replied: “Leonard got carried away, he thought he was Sir James Mitchell or some similar early State Governor. He gave such a good speech and then declared it to be a half-day holiday and sent all the children home.” Mrs Henderson said: “Mr Manners, I think I’m in big trouble.”
Prince Leonard urged her not to be concerned and presented her with a Hutt River ‘visa’, assuring her that if she needed somewhere to go then he would welcome her as his Minister for Education at the Hutt River Province.
All in a day’s work.