Jane reminded me today of one more rather distant connection with had with Queen Elizabeth II, whose 60th Jubilee is being celebrated today.
Most readers will know of the rather hazardous journey Jane and I took into Sudan in 2001 to find who would eventually become our adopted daughter Abuk. The civil war was in full swing and any travel was precarious.
We managed to find an air company willing to fly us to the area close to where we heard Abuk was situated. We arrived at Wilson Airport in Nairobi early in the morning and were led onto a larger than normal two-engined aircraft. Though it had been modified a number of times, it had clearly seen better days. That is the plane you see at the top of this post. As we flew into the war-torn region of south Sudan, the pilot informed us that the plane we were on was the one Queen Elizabeth flew on when she found out that her father, the King, had died. She flew on it to Entebbe in Uganda before journeying home to be officially crowned.
For those who don’t know the story, she had bid her father farewell in England, knowing he was ill. But her duties as a princess were to take her to Kenya, Australia and New Zealand.
Elizabeth and Philip were staying at the Sagana Lodge in rural Kenya, and she was photographing some wildlife as Philip took an afternoon nap. He was awoken and told of King George’s death. He said he would tell his wife, whereupon he took her for a long walk to break the news. Everything was turned upside down as she prepared to journey back to England and replace her father. She is pictured here leaving the lodge after hearing the news and on her way to the airplane that Jane and I eventually flew in. She was taken to nearby Nanyuki, and then on to Entebbe where her official plane waited to take her back to England.
By the time we got on that plane decades later it was on its last legs. We held Abuk in our arms as we sat among goats, sheep and a few harried passengers attempting to escape the war. Thinking back on it today, I was reminded that it had carried at least two remarkably important passengers in its lifetime – a new Queen, and an escaped slave child that was about to find her new home in Canada – a remarkable connection that makes today even more special.