Locals enjoy prince, even tuatara namesake

Prince Harry holds Henry the tuatara, from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Photo by Allison...
Prince Harry holds Henry the tuatara, from the Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Photo by Allison Beckham.
Prince Harry greets the crowd at Invercargill Airport as   Yvonne Gawn, of Invercargill, steals a...
Prince Harry greets the crowd at Invercargill Airport as Yvonne Gawn, of Invercargill, steals a hug. Photo by Allsion Beckham.
Prince Harry comments after opening a Bluff oyster, watched by oyster farmer Jim Maass Barrett....
Prince Harry comments after opening a Bluff oyster, watched by oyster farmer Jim Maass Barrett. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.

Ardent royalist Yvonne Gawn could not help herself when coming face to face with Prince Harry at Invercargill Airport yesterday. After shaking his hand she stole a hug and followed that up by stroking his neck.

''What a moment! I can't believe that happened. I'm 68 and this is the closest I've been to royalty,'' she declared afterwards, a beaming smile on her face.

She and her friend Jenny Fraser arrived at the airport at 9am, two hours before the prince and his entourage arrived on an RNZAF aeroplane.

By 10.30am hundreds were packed into the terminal building. Some carried signs, including one held aloft by a group of girls which invited Harry to come and have his photograph taken with them. He obliged.

A couple dressed in England rugby jerseys and waved a British flag. A woman showed the prince photographs from a women's magazine of his new niece, Princess Charlotte, which he examined closely, while another woman, who said later she was a dairy farmer, gave him a small soft toy cow.

Tania Lowe travelled from Tapanui, combining a visit to family with an opportunity to see the prince.

''I thought, the royals don't come down here very often so I would make the most of it.''

Prince Harry - officially Prince Henry of Wales - spent about 40 minutes at the airport, attending a welcome hosted by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, before flying by helicopter to Stewart Island.

Christie Peacock, of Invercargill, who described herself as a ''bit of a royal fan'', said as well as going to the airport she had also booked a ferry ride to to Stewart Island yesterday and was staying two nights there in the hope of seeing the prince again.

''Princes don't come down here very often and I have never been to Stewart Island before, so it was a good opportunity.''

Another Henry was almost the star of the show at the welcome function - Henry the tuatara. The long time resident of the Southland Museum and Art Gallery's ''tuatarium'' is believed to be at least 110 years old.

He sat on tuatara keeper Lindsay Hazley's knee during the official speeches, getting a little feisty before sitting quietly on the prince's arm for a short while.

While visiting British media covering the event had to be told what a tuatara was and how to spell the word, Prince Harry was more familiar with the creatures, Mr Hazley said afterwards.

''He said he knew something about them, and he was happy to hold Henry.''

-allison.beckham@odt.co.nz

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