Roamer: Prince beat a Lambeg drum causing chaos during his rowdy Royal visit

Official portrait of Prince Edward
Official portrait of Prince Edward

Several years ago some wonderful reminiscences of Hillsborough from days of yore were shared on this page, courtesy of Mayne Harshaw and taken from his book Childhood Memories of the Early 1930s.

Several years ago some wonderful reminiscences of Hillsborough from days of yore were shared on this page, courtesy of Mayne Harshaw and taken from his book Childhood Memories of the Early 1930s.

One of the author’s most colourful, youthful recollections was of a Royal visitor whose arrival in the town “exceeded all expectations for sheer excitement.”

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor after his abdication “received a rousing welcome from huge crowds packed along the village streets.

‘‘Never was there a Royal visit like it before or since,” Mayne Harshaw enthused in his book.

A handwritten letter has just come to Roamer from Armagh News Letter reader George Proctor. It began “does anyone know whether the Lambeg drum beaten by Edward Prince of Wales at Hillsborough Castle was in 1933 or 1934?”

There wasn’t a reference to any particular date in Mayne Harshaw’s book, except that Prince Edward’s visit was in the early 1930s.

Perhaps it was in 1932, when the Prince of Wales opened Stormont Parliament Buildings on November 16.

Whichever the year - and hopefully a reader will inform Roamer at the address below - Mayne’s memories of Prince Edward totally eclipsed any recollections of his “earliest experience of a Royal visitor” to Hillsborough.

Princess Mary “came one winter evening” recounted Harshaw, describing her visit as “to say the least, disappointing.”

According to Roamer’s (hopefully reliable!) research, Princess Mary visited Northern Ireland in both 1924 and 1928.

“I was among a privileged group of children waving flags on the steps of the Market House facing Hillsborough Castle,” Mayne Harshaw recalled, adding a retrospective exasperation and explanation - “the Royal cavalcade swept into the Castle ignoring us and the Guard of Honour.

‘‘Apparently the Royal Lady was so terrified to be in such a barbaric country that she could not wait to reach the safety of the Castle. I was somewhat compensated when mother took me to the monument field and for the first time I saw fireworks shooting out of a huge bonfire lit for the occasion.”

Over a decade later, the drum-banging Royal visitor referred to in George Proctor’s letter came in the afternoon to “a rousing welcome from huge crowds packed along the village streets.”

Young Mayne Harshaw, probably aware of Prince Edward’s colourful lifestyle, thought that “he must have been a bit of a handful for the old Duke and Duchess of Abercorn for after tea he demanded to be taken to a squash court, or might it have been racquets?”

After being “spirited away” in a sports car, the Prince of Wales returned later that night when “the village was still thronged with people and the sound of drums was deafening.”

At first little Mayne thought that “a fight had developed around two drums but then I heard them shouting, ‘Put her on Prince!! Put her on Prince!!’”

Apparently Prince Edward came out of Hillsborough Castle onto the street to “observe at close quarters this phenomena of Lambeg drums but somehow in the darkness he had been recognised and there was bedlam on all sides.”

Mayne rushed home and excitedly announced that the Prince was coming up the hill “enthusiastically beating a Lambeg drum and barely able to support its weight!”

The police, alerted that the Prince was “out on the loose” rescued their blue-blooded ‘beatnik’ from his fans and got him safely back into the Castle.

Not in a hurry, he granted more Royal repartee atop the wall of the Castle gate!

“The men with the drum had been allowed into the Castle to present the drum-sticks to the Prince and emerged shaking hands and slapping each other on the back,” Mayne’s memories concluded with glee - “What a night!!! The Prince,

among his people had skinned his fingers endorsing their sacred symbol, and the undying loyalty of his subjects was assured for ever.” George Proctor’s letter about the Prince’s painful solo performance added some intriguing personal memories.

The Lambeg drum that Edward had thumped so enthusiastically “was brought to Armagh one Saturday in 1934?” George isn’t sure of the actual year.

“It was left in our kitchen in Barrack Street where my father had a grocery and confectionary shop, later with a Post Office added.”

The presence of the hallowed Lambeg drummed up plenty of public interest!

“People came through the shop into the kitchen to view it,” George’s letter continued.

One again, princely percussion caused such commotion that official reinforcements were required and “there was a police guard on our door” George’s letter concluded.

“Carefree childhood days pass all too quickly and so memories must end,” Mayne Bradshaw wrote in his book about growing up in Hillsborough, “in a community where everyone’s name and residence was known.”

Asking “where have the people gone?” and referring to “the mighty hill” with its “silent monuments of a bygone age” Harshaw’s book ended with a poignant observation - “minding other people’s business may be frowned upon nowadays but then it resulted in a caring community with its network of support in good times and bad and especially in sickness and sorrow.”

And we are indebted for such wonderful memories of a not-so-silent Royal reminder of a bygone age!