Royal visitors

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, 1958

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother first visited Australia by herself in 1958, from 14 February to 7 March, visiting Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

While in Sydney, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother visited the University of Sydney on 25 February 1958 to unveil a plaque on the new building for the Research Institute for Mothers and Infants.


Background

In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II made her first visit to Australia and agreed to the formation of the Coronation Gift Fund.

The people of New South Wales raised £90,000 with which to purchase a gift for Queen Elizabeth II to mark the occasion of her visit.

Her Majesty asked that the money be returned to the people of the State, in the wish that it be used toward the betterment of the welfare of women and children.

Professors Bruce Mayes and Lorimer (later Sir) Dods made an application to the State Cabinet to use the funds to establish a University of Sydney research institute devoted to topics of concern in the welfare of women and children, and focussed on researching the causes and prevention of illness and deaths of mothers and infants.

Senate learned with pleasure that the New South Wales Government had decided that £80,000 from the Coronation Gift Fund be utilised for the purpose of establishing within the University of Sydney a Research Institute for Mothers and Infants having as its object the investigation of the causes and the prevention of illness and deaths of mothers and infants.

Senate decided that the building to accommodate the Institute would be erected on the southern boundary of the No. 1 Oval facing Carillon Avenue Gates and accordingly as close as possible to the new Medical building and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II approved the Senate's request for permission to name the Research Institute for Mothers and Infants "The Queen Elizabeth the Second Research Institute for Mothers and Infants".


The Queen Mother's outfit

Her Majesty wore a delicately tinted hydrangea-blue flowered chiffon dress and coat ensemble and a small hat of matching tulle trimmed with roses in the same shade of hydrangea blue. Her acccessoried were white.

The official dais

Her Majesty sat on the red-carpeted official dais. Among those with her were the Chancellor of the University Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn, the Deputy Chancellor The Hon Sir Victor Windeyer and the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Stephen Roberts.

Seated behind the dais were the colourfully dressed members of the University Professorial Board and of the Senate, in their scarlet, yellow, maroon and black robes. One woman was seated with the Senate members - she was Miss Fanny Cohen, only woman member of it.

The Queen Mother's speech at the ceremony

The Queen Mother's speech included the following words:

"Australia has an enviable record of maternal and child health, but there is no limit to the advances which can and will be made in this field. There is no ground for complacency as long as one mother dies in childbirth or one child grows up handicapped by a preventable disease.

"Your hospitals have a fine record of service, your physicians and surgeons are respected all over the world and this university is justly famed for its teaching and research.

"It is in keeping with your academic tradition that this institute should have every modern facility for research. Only by providing such facilities can a university claim to be a true place of learning.

"Here today I see you building wisely and planning for the future of Australia by caring for the children. Most important of all, you are providing for their mental and spiritual health by safeguarding their mothers.

"The welfare of mothers and babies - to which the work of the institute will be dedicated - is very close to my heart.

"That the Queen shares this interest you will know well, for it was Her Majesty's personal wish that the coronation funds should be used in this way."

The unveiling

It was a happily informal moment, shared by one of the few close to the dais when Her Majesty said: "How does this work?" as she turned to the Chancellor before pulling the silk cord which drew back the curtain covering the memorial plaque.

The wording of the plaque was: "This plaque was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on the 25th February, 1958. The building commemorates the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II".

Stray dog

Another delightful incident occurred when a stray black and tan dog scampered across to the official dais while the Chancellor was making his speech of welcome. The Queen Mother delighted everyone by snapping her fingers at it and giving it a word of greeting.


LB