OPINION: Egad! An old Irish rebel finds himself warming to Royal Family

Sarnia Mayor Iven Walker escorts Queen Elizabeth during her visit to the city on July 3, 1959. Photo courtesy, Lambton County Archives, Wyoming. Douglas Paisley Photographic Collection, 20104316

Phil Egan

Meghan Mountbatten-Windsor, formerly known as Meghan Markle, is now, officially, the most fascinating member of the British Royal Family.

At least in my humble opinion.

She married Prince Harry on Saturday adorned in a dress reputed to have cost a king’s ransom. Her prince, I feel confident, would have justifiably thought her equally stunning dressed in rags.

For a week before the wedding, TV commentators wondered whether Harry and Meghan might even eclipse Will and Kate as the most popular couple among the Royals. As if there was any doubt.

Unlike the stilted, custom-shackled and crustier members of the Mountbatten-Windsor’s, Princess Diana’s children seem to be down-to-earth, caring and empathetic people.

Dare I say it? I find them endearing.

Old age is clearly mellowing my outlook. I am, historically, an unlikely fan of the Royals.

By the age of 12 I knew every Irish rebel song on my Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem record albums. I could recite a litany of Irish grievances against the English. (For a succinct list, read the first few pages of Tim Egan’s book, The Immortal Irishman).

When Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived in Sarnia in the summer of 1959 aboard the royal yacht Britannia, I left town for Scout camp.

My father was a little more into the visit, but that too ended badly. He commissioned an artist named Ham Leong to paint a 16-by-10-foot portrait of the Queen. Ham created the remarkable colour likeness using a 3-cent postage stamp as a model.

In preparation for the Royal Visit, the sign’s sections were bolted together at Norm Perry Park, facing the northbound Christina Street motorcade route. Observers at the scene claimed the Queen definitely noticed the portrait. But then she was gone.

Weeks later, the portrait was again in the news – this time to my father’s great dismay.

Looking for street barricade materials, a team of labourers had confiscated the sign from among the cable reels in the backyard of my Dad’s electrical contracting shop.

Unfortunately, they didn’t bother to paint it over, so the image of the Queen was still alarmingly visible when it appeared surrounding a massive hole on Christina Street, smack in front of the National Pool Hall.

The Queen would not have been amused.

The image was captured by a Sarnia Observer photographer, which appeared the next day on the front page of the second section.

I thought the whole affair funny, but my poor father was embarrassed to tears.