Dunoon's Royal Visit, 1958
The town of Dunoon is no stranger to royal visits. Mary Queen of Scots visited the area during her tour of the West of Scotland in 1563 and was entertained at both Dunoon Castle and Toward Castle. Similarly, Princess Louise, a well-known supporter of the arts, opened the newly built town pavilion in 1905. When Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Dunoon in August 1958, it was the first visit by a reigning monarch for almost four centuries and was a momentous occasion. As the Platinum Jubilee approaches, we are reflecting on the events of their visit and the impact that it had on the town.
The Queen during her visit to Dunoon in 1958
The visit was arranged by Provost Wyatt, who formally invited the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Dunoon as part of their Scottish tour. On the eleventh of August 1958, the Royal Yacht Britannia sailed into Dunoon Pier, where several local officials waited to greet the royal guests. The Duke of Argyll was unable to attend, and this led to concern in the local press about whether a centuries old tradition would be honoured. The tradition was established in a 1472 Royal Charter, where it stated that Dunoon Castle and the surrounding lands were gifted by the King to the Earl of Argyll and his heirs, in exchange for a yearly red rose which acted as a rent payment. Luckily, the Captain of Dunstaffnage Michael Eadon Campbell stepped in to represent the Duke of Argyll and presented the Queen with a freshly picked red rose from the gardens of Inveraray Castle. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were very popular guests, with both residents and visitors gathering in large numbers to catch a glimpse of their visit. The local press described the onlookers as having ‘thronged the promenade and Castle Gardens.’
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders performed a Guard of Honour to mark the occasion that contained nearly one hundred men. The Queen was gifted a Scottish brooch and the Duke of Edinburgh a gold fountain pen, alongside the Queen being presented with white gold kilt pins for the royal children. They were both invited to sign two visitors books, one for the town archives and one for Provost Wyatt’s collection. The Queen also unveiled plaques during her visit- one was inside the newly built Pavilion, and the other at the entrance to Castle Gardens.
After taking a tour of the town by car as far as the East Bay, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh had to depart due to a later engagement in Rothesay. Although the visit was short, it made a lasting impression on the town. A new set of steps were built at the South berth of the pier for the visit and became known as the 'Queen's Steps.' At the first town council meeting after the occasion, it was decided the Pavilion should be named 'The Queen's Hall.' This is a name it still carries to this day. This was not the first time that a royal connection led to changes in the town- Pilot Street gained its name in 1847 because the pilot of the steam yacht that carried Queen Victoria to the Clyde, Mr John Crawford, lived there.