Elida Peers | Contributed
Though Britain’s Prince Andrew has made several visits to British Columbia over the years, how many knew that he made a stop in Sooke in July 1977?
A handsome young fellow, second son of Queen Elizabeth, he caused a bit of a stir on his first visit to B.C. 45 years ago.
Photos of the prince engrossed in the Sooke Forest Products Sawmill tour came to the Sooke Region Museum from Elden Smith and Nadine Smith, children of Dennis (Jock) Smith, who was mill superintendent at the time.
As far as our museum archives record, the youthful Prince Andrew was only the second British prince to visit Sooke, following visits made by Edward, Prince of Wales, in 1919 and 1927, before he became King Edward. (After his abdication, he became Duke of Windsor.)
The 17-year old Andrew was attending Lakeview School in Ontario on an exchange visit from his school in Scotland when he made a side trip to B.C. to visit the Sooke sawmill and Whistler ski resort.
Why a sawmill in the village of Sooke? The mill that cut lumber for 40 years on Goodridge Peninsula was one of the most modern in Canada at the time, employing 400 men in three round-the-clock shifts. B.C. Premier Bill Bennett also attended the tour.
The young prince was seen as a heartthrob, and one of the benefits of your dad being the boss, was a front-row seat. For Nadine, the event remains vivid in her memory; she recalls, “as a young female, I was smitten with the prince’s dreamy looks. I was able to catch his eye and get a smirk from him, and that’s as close as I got. He was my first celebrity-sighting.”
Many newspaper stories have made us aware of later events in the Prince’s life, including his tour as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands War of 1982, where he was hailed as a hero. His marriage to Sarah Ferguson in 1986 and their divorce a decade later kept him in the news, and unfortunately, there has been recent notoriety.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email email@example.com.