One was the head of security during Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s royal visit to Australia in 1983; the other cheekily evaded security, handing Di a Eureka flag, which she accepted, apparently not understanding its incendiary intent.
As Canberra prepares for the royal touchdown of Prince William, Kate and baby Prince George on Sunday, the national capital can lay claim to some key figures from William’s first tour to Australia 31 years ago.
David Evans, 85, of Chapman, was head of the protective security for the Commonwealth government at the time, responsible for the safety of ministers, visiting dignitaries and heads of state.
Former PSCC [Protective Security Co-Ordination Centre] member David Evans with a signed photo of Prince Charles and Princess Diana at his Chapman home. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Formerly of Narrabundah, now of Moruya, Stan Spurek, meanwhile, was a delegate for the Builders Labourers Federation on the site of the new Parliament House, during a royal walkabout when he handed Princess Diana a small Eureka flag on March 24, 1983. The exchange made headlines.
Mr Spurek said the flag, long a symbol of the anti-establishment, was really his way of calling for a republic. He was reported at the time saying the royals were lovely people and welcome any time to Australia but ”we’d like our own independence”.
”She was very nice and she said, ‘Thank you very much’,” he said, this week.
Former PSCC [Protective Security Co-Ordination Centre] member David Evans’ photo of Prince Charles and Princess Diana at his Chapman home. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
”It was something I did plan but didn’t think I would get away with it. But it worked out pretty well.”
Prince William and Prince George were almost the same age – nine months – for their debut visit to Australia but there were reports at the time that some in the royal circle wanted William kept back in England to avoid any distractions. (George turns nine months on Tuesday.)
Mr Evans said he had been told by the Queen during a visit to Australia in late 1982 that Prince Charles and Princess Diana would visit the next year with Prince William and asked him to find a suitable hideaway for the baby and his nannies and protective staff.
He helped come up with the Woomargama homestead near Albury in southern NSW, owned by BHP director Gordon Darling and his then wife Margaret. (Mr Darling and his second wife Marilyn would go on to be instrumental in the establishment of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.)
Needless to say, Mr Evans now says as soon as the British media landed in Australia they not only knew the exact location of the homestead but a small hideout for a photographer was discovered not far from the property. Mr Evans said the intervention of the service eventually kept the media at bay.
Mr Evans flew to Alice Springs to welcome the royal family to Australia in 1983. He then accompanied Prince William on each leg as he was flown from Alice Springs to Canberra and then to Albury, before arriving at the homestead by road.
”I said [on the way to Canberra] to [the entourage], ‘Before we do anything, a future king is in the cot. Health to the future king’. And we all toasted him,” he said.
Mr Evans said he was given a signed photograph of Prince Charles and Princess Diana as a thank-you at the end of the tour, but both he and his wife Patricia were disappointed the photograph did not include William, symptomatic of his tour.
He wrote to Kensington Palace late last year to recommend they include Prince George in any official thank-you photograph from this tour. Mr Evans received a reply that his points had been noted and that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge sent their very best wishes.
Mr Spurek, meanwhile, is not expecting any letters from the royals. He said as a BLF delegate back in 1983, he could probably move more freely around the Parliament House site. Police had tried to stop him from giving the flag to Diana but she reached out and took it, appearing not to realise its significance.
Mr Spurek, 66, was reluctant to say whether he’d repeat the stunt when William and Kate visit Canberra but since The Canberra Times tracked him down, his resolve towards a republic seems to have hardened, preparing a sign that read: ”It’s time Willy. Do it for Kate and George and Australia.”
”I still believe in it,” he said. ”What I did back then was a personal thing, and I just went with it.”