Prince Philip is seen here talking to Alex Rennie about platters of food presented by the culinary deparment at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) in 1983. (Courtesy of Alex Rennie)

Prince Philip is seen here talking to Alex Rennie about platters of food presented by the culinary deparment at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) in 1983. (Courtesy of Alex Rennie)

Parksville man recalls meeting Prince Philip at what was then Malaspina College

Alex Rennie, a former culinary instructor, got to shake hands with royal visitor

Parksville resident Alex Rennie fondly recalls having the pleasure of meeting Prince Philip, the Duke Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth, when he visited Nanaimo in 1983.

The prince died at the age of 99 on Friday, April 9. Rennie recalled a time the royal couple visited Vancouver Island. The trip included a stop at Malaspina College (now Vancouver Island University) where Rennie was a culinary instructor at the time.

Rennie said they presented a buffet of dishes and pastries to the couple, who went on to officially open the banquet room above the cafeteria now known as the Royal Arbutus Room.

“There were six to seven instructors there, quite small and we were introduced to him,” said Rennie, who was an instructor at Malaspina for 28 years and was inducted in to the National Chefs Honour Society in 2019. “I did get to shake his hand.

RELATED: Flags drop, bells toll as Canadians remember special relationship with Prince Philip

“It’s hard to say what I felt back then. You see them all the time but to see them in reality it was ‘wow.’ She is a commanding figure.”

The Scotland-born Rennie, who moved to Parksville in 1970, also recalled how they were prepped on the dos and don’ts prior to meeting the royals.

“Their entourage, there were two of them, spoke about protocols like you can’t shake the hand of the Queen but if the Queen shakes your hand, don’t squeeze her hand,” said Rennie, who added they weren’t allowed to wear sport jackets with leather elbows, Hush Puppies or suede shoes, and that they had to wear a dark suit to meet the Queen.

Rennie also indicated his wife Jeanette was also able to watch the event.

The royal couple made a variety of visits to Vancouver Island. One of the places they visited was Ray and Vernonica Milner’s estate (now Milner Gardens and Woodland) in Qualicum Beach, where they also stayed for three days in 1987.

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