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On the night of Canada Day, thirty years ago, I stood at a window at Beaconsfield overlooking the crowds coming from Victoria Park after the Fireworks. Thousands of people were there that night and so was the Queen of England. Remember it was the centennial of PEI joining Confederation - The Place to be in'73. It was a beautiful night and mood was lovely

I was all alone in Beaconsfield. We had worked all week-end on cleaning up the house after carpenters, floor sanders, sprinklers and painters had left. I had walked around earlier in those almost empty drawing rooms wondering how we could pull it all together the next day and be ready for a Queen to officially open the place on Tuesday morning. It was frightening.

"We" were only a small group; the secretary, Janice, some summer students like Daphne Dumont and Joyce Dewar and faithful board members and friends and Alan and Isabell Swan who had recently moved into the back apartment as caretakers. We went to work. We hung William Douse over one mantle and a James Peake ship painting over the other. We had a chart of Charlottetown Harbour and a collection of photos by Lionel Stevenson of Island barns. We had the Mark Butcher sofa in one corner and "a cabinet of curiosities" in the other. There were a few other things, but they slip my mind at the moment.

At the end of the day there was a prestigiousness to it all in its minimalism. The final touches were put in place early Tuesday morning when under the direction of Mary Dolphin the most beautiful arrangements of garden flowers were put in place to fill in the gaps.

When the Queen and Prince Philip drove up about 10:30 we greeted them as if it had been no work at all. Walter Shaw, who was on our board at the time, said it was the nicest event he had ever attended with the Queen. That was quite a complement. There were some funny things like when Prince Philip went after Dr. Bolger for not putting a "Prince Edward Island and the World" map in his book "Canada'a Smallest Province" and then he caught me calling the chart of Charlottetown Harbour a map! We saw the Queen trying to turn off the drip in the bar sink we had left in the Board Room and we learned that the radiators were the same is at Windsor. She giggled a couple of times and was very interested that Princess Louise, the Marquis of Lorne, had dined with the Peakes in the house in 1879. When she did her walk about outside after she remembered a women she had met on a previous visit to Charlottetown. Not bad, eh.

But the story of the stories was the one about the cutting of the ribbon at the front steps. We had looked high and low for a fine worthy pair of scissors fit for a queen to cut a ribbon. They are hard to find. I was on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal a few weeks before and went from one antique shop to another. All I was able to find was a pair of grape scissors, but there were very sweet - and sterling. We tested them and they cut a ribbon so I took them home. Everyone seemed pleased, but mind you, not very familiar with grape scissors. There is a great picture of the Queen cutting the ribbon that day with Wanda Wyatt, Dr. Bolger and myself looking on. It has Prince Philip looking curiously over her shoulder and what he was actually saying at that moment was "Grape Scissors, she can't cut the ribbon with those"! She did and thirty years ago today Beaconsfield was officially opened.

Written Friday, July 04, 2003 at 08:12 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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