Queenstown visit: Former mayoress Lorraine Cooper on a walkabout with the late Prince Philip in the Queenstown Gardens in 1970


What would you get if you mixed two nuns, twins in a pushchair and Prince Philip?

Well, an attempt at a little bit of royal humour, of course.

During the 1970 royal tour, then-Queenstown mayor Warren Cooper accompanied the Queen on a walkabout through Queenstown Gardens, leaving then-mayoress Lorraine Cooper with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip, she says, was in top form on what she suspects might have been the first ever royal family walkabout.

‘‘He was very chatty; stopping to talk to people.’’

Lorraine recalls Princess Anne dropping back every now and then to urge ‘‘Papa” to hurry up.

‘‘You’re lagging behind.

‘‘You’ve got to catch up.’’

At the gardens pond, the Queen chatted to then-gardens curator, the late Nic Leefe, the Queen remarking Leefe had a delightful name for a gardener, and her own gardener was a Mr Gumnut — that fact, if it is indeed a fact, has yet to be acknowledged by Google.

Near the bath-house on the shore of Lake Wakatipu Prince Philip encountered twins in a pushchair.

He asked those in the crowd who they belonged to, and as he looked around, he noticed a pair of nuns.

‘‘He said: well they are obviously not yours,” Lorraine says.

A bad joke, a dad joke, or just a Prince Philip gaffe?

All that can be said now is that somewhere out there, aged 51, are twins who were, for a few seconds, the centre of Prince Philip’s royal attention.

Arrowtown’s Lakes District Museum notes during Prince Philip’s visit to the gardens he tried his hand at curling, on a sheet of plastic.

“Incredible man”: Current mayoress Karen Boult, left, beside husband Jim – then Shotover Jet’s managing director, with the Queen and Prince Philip (back to camera) in 1990

The Queen and Prince Philip came back to Queenstown in ’90, and there while they were watching the Shotover Jet boats was now-mayoress Karen Boult, whose husband, Jim, was Shotty Jet’s managing director at the time.

But she’s got a stronger memory of being put at ease by the Prince during a half hour trip on the Christchurch tram in ’95.

‘‘He was an extremely nice man; extremely intelligent but also very knowledgeable and very interested.

‘‘He was an incredible man who basically took a back seat to his wife’s career.’’

Prince Philip’s funeral is due to take place at Windsor Castle early this Sunday, NZ time.