Queen Elizabeth II stayed on Tasmanian family's farm during 'extraordinary' 1954 visit - petsitterbank

Queen Elizabeth II stayed on Tasmanian family’s farm during ‘extraordinary’ 1954 visit

When Roderic O’Connor’s family heard Queen Elizabeth II was going to stay at their home in rural Tasmania, they went and built an extension.

“We actually call [it] the Queen’s Room,” he said of the 1954 visit.

“We also had to build … a place called the Dougherty’s Room, which is actually to house all the staff around the Queen for a cable link back to Buckingham Palace.

“It was basically to house the wireless operators and all that sort of thing but that had to be built because there wasn’t any other available space.

“It ended up being our playroom years and years after that.”

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Queen Elizabeth II arrives at Connorville in Tasmania.

While Roderic O’Connor’s was not born at the time, his father and grandmother hosted the Queen for an overnight stay during the 1954 Royal Tour of Tasmania.

The Queen and Prince Philip stayed with them at the historic Connorville wool property, one of the state’s best-known farming properties, at Cressy in Tasmania’s north.

It was the only private residence the royal couple stayed at during their tour.

A white country manor home.
The historic Connorville wool property hosted Queen Elizabeth II in 1954.(ABC News: Chook Brooks)

It was Queen Elizabeth II’s first trip to Tasmania, and her overnight stop at Connorville came after three nights in Hobart and visits to Burnie and Devonport.

“The preparations were just massive,” Mr O’Connor said.

He said roads were literally built to make the farm fit for a queen.

“From roading to all sorts of things, the public road area and around the farm, it was a really big thing,” he said.

There was plenty of prior warning that the Queen would be staying.

“But in those days you didn’t have the waiting lists to get jobs done,” Mr O’Connor said.

“I think it was done very, very quickly, once they knew it they got straight onto building a Queen’s room and a Duke’s room and a bathroom and an extra outhouse for the staff.”

Irrigation and hilly farmland.
Connorville is one of Tasmania’s best-known farming properties.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

‘Commoners’ allowed to stay with Queen

Mr O’Connor’s grandmother, May, and his father, Rod, stayed at Connorville at the same time as the Queen.

“To the best of my knowledge I think it’s the first time that commoners have been allowed to stay inside the residence while the Queen took up residence in a commoner’s house,” he said.

“So it was something pretty extraordinary.

“It was a really big deal, and I personally today feel very sad that that link has gone.

“It’s an integral part of the history of Connorville and it’s kept our property known to some degree.”

A plaque commemorating the Queen's visit to Connorville.
A memorial plaque was erected at Connorville for the visit.(Supplied: Roderic O’Connor)

While visiting, Queen Elizabeth II walked around parts of the property, met staff and got her hands dirty.

“She planted a lovely golden elm,” Mr O’Connor said. “It’s still there today.”

“Prince Phillip also planted a tree, but we’re not entirely sure which one that was.”

Queen Elizabeth II digs a hole with a shovel while others stand near her in a garden.
Queen Elizabeth II plants a tree during a visit to Connorville in 1954.(Supplied: Roderic O’Connor)

The possibility of a stay at the historic property started well before arrival.

“I think it came around from my grandmother’s childhood who actually over time got to know Prince Phillip,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Prince Phillip actually visited and stayed at Connorville a couple of times before I think in 1948 and maybe 1950, but I think it was through that connection that the suggestion was when they were visiting Australia that they could actually come and stay at Connorville.”

Sheep in a brown paddock.
Roderic O’Connor is a sixth-generation woolgrower.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

His family had fond memories of the visit.

“A couple of things that really stood out is just how very open she was,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We’ve got to remember she was very young at that stage and there was still great formality, but I think they were quite surprised at how free-flowing the conversation went.”


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