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Prince Charles & Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall Dundurn Castle Visit - November 5th 2009
It started with a rumour, a whisper - a Royal Visit? Who?
The rumours were persistent and now with a name attached - His Royal Highness Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. A full, days-long Royal Visit, including Hamilton and Niagara.
A call from RHLI Senate member Shelagh Whitaker to Honorary Colonel Tom Marlor got the ball rolling, and soon the Military Band of the RHLI was part of the official tour. It was decided that Dundurn Castle would be the best venue to showcase their talents. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is the great-great-great grand-daughter of Sir Alan McNab, the laird of Dundurn from the 1830's to his death in 1862 and Dundurn (Gaelic for "strong fort") became one of the couple's key stops.
In Hamilton, interest in the visit was high. Despite wet, blustery weather early on the morning of November 5th, the crowds began gathering and soon an estimated 3,000 people were on hand. Shortly after 10 a.m., our Band marched onto the grounds to tremendous applause, their red wool tunics showing strongly against the cream-coloured castle (and helping keep the musicians warm in the 8° temperature).
Thankfully the skies mostly cleared and under bright sunshine, the Royal procession drove onto the estate right on schedule at 11 am. To the crowds’ great delight, Prince Charles and Camilla took several minutes to move down the line, shaking hands, talking to people and even accepting a few gifts pressed on them. Our Band was playing throughout, providing the perfect accompaniment to the moment.
The Royals toured through the castle and soon enough, emerged to plant a commemorative red oak. As Prince Charles approached our Band, he could be seen clearly indicating to his aides that he was going to come over! He was welcomed by our Director of Music, Major Michael Rehill, with whom he chatted for a time - until the medals worn by Band Sergeant-Major Johnny Bissell caught his eye. MWO Bissell, a recent arrival from the UK, was sporting his UK military service medals and His Royal Highness, with his keen eye, approached the band ranks and talked to him.
Then, with a smile and a friendly wave, he moved on. The tree was planted, more hands shaken, more words spoken. Then into the waiting cars and on to HMCS Haida in Hamilton harbour and later to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Another Royal moment for our Band and our Regiment!