Cecelie Scanlan with Queen Elizabeth at the Lord Mayor's Royal Ball, 10 March 1954. All Hallows' School Magazine, 1954.

Today marks the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Queensland, which this year celebrates the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1954, it was a 27-year old Queen who arrived in Brisbane, with her husband Prince Phillip, as the first reigning monarch to set foot in the State.

The Queen was rapturously received by the Queensland public throughout her 9-day tour. The Sisters of Mercy at All Hallows’ Convent on Ann Street were in a prime position to see the royal couple in their open-top Rolls Royce as they toured the city, and their interactions with the Queen were breathlessly recorded in the All Hallows’ School magazine:

The Queen is here. Everyone has been caught up in the wave of love and loyalty that sweeps the city when the Royal Plane touched down … One felt it in the quiver of excitement in the voices of the radio announcers, and in the happy groups of Sisters and boarders gathered round the many radios excitedly following every step of the royal progress. But radios were abandoned as Her Majesty’s car drew near to the Valley, and all sought the best vantage points from which to see for themselves. Most of us saw, in the distance, the slight gracious figure with the white gloved hand raised in greeting—that was our first sight of our lovely Queen.  

The Sisters of Mercy and their students saw a better view of the Queen on her second day in Brisbane, as she passed St Stephen’s Cathedral on a drive around the city. The Bishop of Brisbane had secured the Sisters a good vantage point, where they received a ‘special smile’. Later that day, 200 All Hallows’ students took part in a student exhibition for the royal couple.

The most exciting night of the royal visit for the All Hallows’ community was that of 10 March, the date of the Lord Mayor’s Royal Ball. As a reward for receiving the highest marks of all Queensland schoolgirls in the Junior Public Examinations, All Hallows’ student Cecelie Scanlan received the ‘much coveted honour’ of presenting the Queen with a bouquet of flowers at the ball. Again, the Sisters gathered around radios at All Hallows’ to follow along with proceedings. They heard that Cecelie ‘presented the bouquets of orchids to the Queen,’ and then shook hands and spoke with the Queen and Price Phillip for a couple of minutes. Cecelie and the three All Hallows’ old girls who also attended the ball visited the convent on their way to the event, ‘bringing some of the magic of the night into the very heart of All Hallows’.

On the last day of the Queen’s visit to Brisbane, her motorcade passed the All Hallows’ gates on its way to the north. Waiting and ready, the All Hallows’ head girls stepped forward and presented the Queen with a bouquet, which she stopped the car to receive. ‘In this way, we tried to express something of our loyalty and admiration for our beloved Monarch.’ It was a fitting close to a magical and memorable three days on Ann Street.

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