When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Friday, October 7, 2011

Queen's Visit to Brisbane, 1954. Meet the 92 Minute "Queen" & Royal Stand-in Miss Gloria Stewart.

From The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, February 6th, 1954.

Gloria Stuart, of Henry Street, Eagle Junction, will be 'Queen' for 92 minutes on February 21. She will be 'stand in' for Her Majesty at the full dress rehearsal. Gloria, aged 28, is private secretary to the Premier's wife, Mrs. V. C. Gair. She has been Mrs. Gair's secretary for two years and before that worked in the Health and Home Affairs Department for 10 years.Gloria was too busy at work yesterday to discuss the 92-minute excitement ahead of her.Last night, she said: 'It will be a big job and afterwards I'll probably have some idea of the strain the Queen is under for just that short time.' Gloria, 5ft 2in, is almost the same height as the Queen, who is 5ft 4in.. Her appearance is also not unlike the Queen's. She is a slim, attractive girl with poise, and she has a fair complexion, blue eyes, and short brown curly hair.

Gloria Stewart and Duke of Edinburgh stand-in, Governor of Queensland, John Lavarach......."arrive" at Eagle Farm Airport.

Queen Elizabeth's visit of 1954 was the first by a sitting monarch of Australia and such a notable event would be worthy of a few rehearsals and her visit to Brisbane alone involved three rehearsals for three individual events and for all the rehearsals Miss Gloria Stewart was front and centre, assuming the roll of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. The largest being the Queen's arrival at Eagle Farm Airport and 'progress' to Government House. Gloria also took part in the rehearsal for the Royal Reception held at Brisbane City Hall. The most interesting rehearsal was one of Brisbane's first ever television broadcasts, two years before broadcast television was launched in Australia, just in time for the Melbourne Olympic Games of 1956.

After her "arrival" at Eagle Farm Gloria accompanied Mr C.J.McPherson, as the Duke's stand-in, to the Exhibition Grounds where they rehearsed a walk and greet with the Brisbane public and selected dignitaries. And the feedback from Gloria and Mr McPherson is very amusing where they describe "the 'pumpimg' too severe"

Mr. McPherson said the 'Royal' car was uncomfortably hot, because of its low speed (average 6 mph).'Too vigorous' Both Miss Stewart and he complained of the too vigorous handshakes of people presented at the Exhibition Ground. He said that in many cases the grip was too tight and the 'pumping' too severe. It was necessary only to touch the hand.Twenty-four aldermen and City Council departmental heads and their wives were presented. After the presentation Alderman Roberts told them to shake hands more lightly. Mrs. Gair (wife of the Qld Premier) explained how to curtsy, and the presentation was repeated.

The Courier-Mail and Amalgamated Wireless Australasia bought the television equipment to Brisbane for a demonstration where the Queens address to the Queensland Parliament would be broadcast to at least two televisions sets, one in the Qld Premiers office and the other was installed in Ward 3 of the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital.

And what did some of the first people in Brisbane to watch television have to say about it?

Said one of the ward sisters : 'It's just like the films on a smaller scale, and it's wonderful to think it's happening now. Another patient, Mr. Gilbert Lynch, of Hendra, said: 'We'll be able to see even the expressions on their faces. This is a wonderful thing they're doing for us.'Mr. Herman Croft, 66, agreed : 'It certainly makes up for the fact that the Queen isn't coming out here herself.'

Whatever became of Miss Gloria Stewart? Sadly, the trail has gone cold. She seemed to have her ninety two minutes plus of fame and disappeared from the public record. There are no other references to Gloria Stewart that we have managed to find and can only presume she married;  perhaps she is still with us. If you know what became of Brisbane's ninety two minute queen, let us know.


1954 'BRISBANE WILL HAVE 92-MINUTE "QUEEN".', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 6 February, p. 3. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50571091

1954 'TV WAS '100 PER CENT'.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 9 March, p. 3.


1954 'Full "Progress" rehearsal.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 22 February, p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50580083

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