Dinner: Birmingham Chamber
Trade Mission ready to go to a Trade Reception at the
British Embassy in Manilla
Presenting to HRH The Princess of Wales
the Lady Mayoress of Birmingham
at St Mary’s Hospice
HRH The Princess Royal
in the West Midlands
We also were privileged to witness how kindly and lovingly concerned was his future wife, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. On the first visit to Birmingham of the Prince and Princess of Wales (soon after their marriage) I was asked by the Lord-Lieutenant to be the Deputy Lieutenant to look after The Princess on her programme for the visit, whilst he attended the Prince of Wales. When I have to undertake a Royal Duty which involves one of the Royal Ladies my wife accompanies me, and she did so on this occasion. We escorted the Princess in a cavalcade of cars to St Mary’s Hospice, Birmingham, which I had been involved as Chairman of the Appeal to set it up, being the third of these modern hospices to be established in the United Kingdom. The visit was a great success as she was most warmly welcomed everwhere she went, by crowds lining the streets and especially by the patients and families as well as the staff of the Hospice. When visiting a single-bedded ward she met a young man beside the bed of his grandmother who was comtose; he had been sitting on the bed holding her hand. The young man after being presented to the Princess resumed sitting on the edge of the bed and again held his grandmother’s hand. After asking his permission she sat on the other side of the bed and took the grandmother’s other hand as she quietly spoke to the young man. There was just the four of us in the small room but I was not privy to what she said to him but that picture of these two young people holding the comtose grandmother’s hands as they spoke to each other remain with me as a most moving moment. Later when we had completed the visit and back at the home of the Lord-Lieutenant where she was to rest before preparing to go to an engagement later that evening, she was most gracious as Mabel and I spoke to her and when I asked permission to withdraw she wanted us to stay on to tea but Mabel was aware of the time pressure facing both her and the Countess of Aylesford in the next few hours and asked her permission to decline. However, she wanted us to take back to St Mary’s Hospice all the flowers that had been presented to her that day and it was a duty we were privileged to carry out. We found both The Prince and Princess of Wales to be a most kindly and loving couple, and we were greatly sadden when they separated.
Mabel was also with me when I did duty with HRH The Princess Royal, which involved a series of engagements that started at 11 in the morning until 5.30 in the afternoon, with only a very brief buffet luncheon. When I retired from my executive role at the newspaper publishing company I stayed on the main holding company board for a couple of years and carried out a number of activities as a director of BPM (Holdings) plc. I was involved with the University of Birmingham as a member of its Council and with the setting up of St Mary’s Hospice. Also started writing A Letter to Our Grandchildren with the memories of our life together, intending it to be privately produced. I also had duties from time-to-time as a Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands. Undoubtedly, the main assignment was President of the Birmingham Chamber of Industry and Commerce and that again involved Mabel in a range of social events, which culminated in leading a British Trade Mission to the Phillippines and South Korea, which was extended to Japan on Birmingham Chamber business as we were concerned at the announcement that Honda inconjuction with British Leyland were to produce a British version of the Honda car in the Midlands. So it was arranged I would meet the Vice-President (Manufacturing) of Honda in Tokyo for discussions.
Two outstanding memories of our time in Manilla. We were provided with a jeep and Mabel in asking the Filopino driver about his family and being particularly interested in how they fared during the Japanese occuption, was deeply moved to learn that his mother had been bayonetted by the Japanese. He told her he was quite young at the time but recalls the family being driven out of their home by the Japanese and they had to hide up in the hills and about his mother’s concern about their property which they had hidden in Manilla. Despite the father’s and families concern for her safety, she would from time-to-time sneak back into Manilla during curfew to check their possessions were safe. Mabel was moved to tears as she related to me how the man tearfully told her that his mother had been caught doing this and when the family went searching they found her lying dead in the street from bayonet wounds. Mabel’s tears for the man were also shed for his mother to whom she could closely relate, as surely as I knew her, that is what Mabel would have done in her concern for her family. Another memory of our visit to Manilla recalls when we had to undertake an official trip in a hovercraft into Manilla Bay. When we were well out to sea the hovercraft, alas built in England, broke down and the hovercraft started drifting out of control! First there was some tinkering with sissors and then spanners which was followed by the appearance of a man with a hammer and then it was announced it could not be repaired and another hovercraft was being sent out. In the middle of a choppy sea we had to transfer from one to the other by means of walking a plank! Mabel, despite her fear, nevertheless gallantly faced the challenge and later we were informed that back home in Birmingham the evening newspaper had carried a bold headline ‘Birmingham Chamber President and his wife rescued in Manilla Bay’!