A veteran photographer and film-maker has told how proud he was to meet the Duke of Edinburgh as he visited a Market Harborough secondary school almost 50 years ago.
Peter Wilford, 85, said it was a “great thrill” to meet Prince Philip as he helped set up the unique film shoot of his high-profile trip to Welland Park school on Welland Park Road in May 1973.
And he has shared a veritable treasure trove of priceless pictures of the Duke and the Queen visiting Market Harborough and nearby Lubenham after Prince Philip’s funeral went ahead at Windsor Castle on Saturday (April 17).
Peter, who’s been secretary of Market Harborough Movie Makers for several decades, told the Harborough Mail: “I’ve never forgotten the day I met the Duke of Edinburgh.
“It was a real honour and a privilege to meet such a special man, a giant of our time.
“It’s just so sad that he has died and left us just weeks before reaching his 100th birthday.”
Recalling the unforgettable day he came face to face with the Duke at Welland Park School, he said: “Prince Philip flew to Market Harborough by helicopter – which was exciting enough – before landing on the school field on May 2, 1973.
“He was visiting the school in connection with his highly-successful award scheme.
“The Duke inspected the displays set up by the boys and girls and spoke to many of them about what they’d been doing to get their awards.
“I know that many of them have fascinating stories to tell about the day that they talked to the famous Duke to this day.
“We had four cameramen shooting his trip here for the Movie Makers.
“We had two on the roof of the school and two others on the toilet block in the park,” remembered Peter, of Clipston, as he rolled away the years.
“I was there at the school with our team when I got called in at the last minute to help operate a movie projector in the building because staff were struggling with it.
“Suddenly the Duke himself appeared beside me after he’d worked his way round the crowded hall.
“He asked me what we were filming and what we were doing.
“He was very pleasant, very friendly and showed a great interest in what we were up to.
“That day has stayed with me ever since and it still stands out as one of the highlights of my entire life,” said Peter, who was working for the old district council’s surveyors’ department at the time.
“About 10 years ago we tracked down and spoke on camera to some of the grown-up pupils the Duke spoke to that day at Welland Park school.
“Like me they all had their very own personal memories of meeting Prince Philip and it made a brilliant follow-up to our original film.”
Peter also revealed how he first encountered both the Duke and the Queen close up some 17 years earlier.
“I was just 21 when the royal couple stayed for the weekend at Thorpe Lubenham Hall at Lubenham.
“I think the Queen was distantly related to the lady of the house,” said Peter, who has two children and five grandchildren.
The keen photographer went along with his 35mm German camera on March 25, 1956 as the Queen and Duke along with Prince Charles and Princess Anne walked to Lubenham Church for the Sunday morning service cheered on by hundreds of ecstatic villagers.
The royal party is seen here in Peter’s amazing image being accompanied by Lt Col Harold Phillips of Thorpe Lubenham Hall.
“A very big crowd turned out to see them as you would expect for such a glamorous occasion.
“Men, women and children from the village as well as from Market Harborough and beyond queued up that Sunday morning to get a good view of the Queen and Duke and wish them well as they went to church,” recalls Peter, who joined Market Harborough Movie Makers in 1962.
“Looking back it’s amazing how close we got to them all – there was the only policeman about.
“The Queen had come within about two feet of me when I took this picture of them!
“It was dry but cold being in March – and there was a huge sense of excitement and anticipation in the air.
“Lt Col Phillips had met the Queen and Duke at Market Harborough station and driven them back to the hall in his Bentley.
“It was fantastic to be able to get so close up and take such a good photograph of them all.”
Peter was also right there on the spot as the Queen and the Duke arrived at Market Harborough station on May 12, 1967 to catch the royal train after making an official visit to the area.
“The Cine Society – as we were then - had four cameramen on the job, including me.
“We mostly followed the Queen into the station rather than the Duke who was some distance behind,” said Peter.
“The royal couple travelled by car from Uppingham to the station to board the royal train to Rugby and were introduced to local dignitaries.
“We were the first amateur organisation to film such a visit.
“And again we were so lucky and so privileged to have been able to take such close-up detailed film of the Queen and the Duke,” said Peter.
“Helping to run our movie-making club in Market Harborough for almost 60 years has taken up a lot of my time!
“But I’ve loved it, it’s been a huge passion, a genuine labour of love and it’s brought me priceless moments such as these – meeting the Duke and filming the Queen from just feet away.
“How many people can say that?
“We’ve obviously not been able to do much at all over the last year throughout this Covid pandemic.
“But we are looking forward to getting back into action as soon as we can – showing our films to charities, church groups and other local people and organisations.
“We probably only have 10 enthusiasts actively involved now so we are keen to attract and bring in new blood,” said Peter.
“I’m almost 86 myself now and none of us can go on for ever!
“So please get in touch if you would like to help and support us, we’d love to hear from you.”
If you would like to get behind Peter and Market Harborough Movie Makers you can contact them through their website here: http://www.harboroughmoviemakers.org/Contact%20Us.html