THE late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited Perth on a number of occasions including in 1962 when he opened the VIIth British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
The official opening of the games was held at Perry Lakes Stadium before a crowd of 50,000 people on 22 November, 1962.
The Duke of Edinburgh officiated in his roles as the Queen’s representative and president of the Commonwealth Games Federation.
The 1962 games coincided with a scorching heatwave that triggered a spate of metropolitan fires and caused many spectators and athletes to wilt with heat exhaustion. The Duke of Edinburgh made himself popular by staying for the entire 10-day duration of the games, visiting every sport that was in session, despite the extreme heat.
Frank McGrath, a former building surveyor with the City of Perth who volunteered to help operate the electronic scoreboard at Perry Lakes Stadium, recalled a casual encounter with Prince hilip at Perry Lakes Stadium during the games: “I had a gold armband which entitled me to go anywhere on the ground, including the Members’ Bar. One day, I walked in to find HRH the Duke of Edinburgh having a quiet drink He invited me to join him for a while.”
During the Games, Beatty Park was the site of the swimming and diving events with Australian swimming legends such as Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose winning gold medals and breaking world records.
Joy Spence, wife of the then Beatty Park Manager Len Spence, recalls the excitement of the occasion: “It was an exciting time for Perth, and you felt it. Even to walk down the street you felt it. All those beautiful flags, all around the perimeter of Perry Lakes, they were a sight worth seeing. All the extra scaffolding with the extra seats and people everywhere. Also, we had Philip to thank for getting Underwood Avenue finished. I believe it just stopped at Jersey Street before, but that was continued on from Jersey Street to Perry Lakes so that Philip would have a nice smooth ride.”
Prince Philip was warmly welcomed to Perth in 1962, although solo he did not attract quite the same level of adulation as his previous visit in 1954 with the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II.
Students from Mount Hawthorn Primary School were among the many thousands of well-wishers who lined the streets of Perth waving Australian and British flags to welcome Prince Philip in 1962.
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