by Colene A. Penn
The Virgin Islands celebrated Her Majesty’s Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday in grand style as hundreds witnessed the grand parade, official ceremony and beacon lighting programme.
The parade which commenced at 1:30 p.m. from the House of Assembly Chambers to the Festival Grounds was the largest known to date that the Territory ever held with close to 1,000 participants representing paramilitary organisations, schools, drum corps and civic organisations.
The official ceremony started at 2:30 p.m. and recognised 32 officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, the Virgin Islands Fire and Rescue Services and Her Majesty’s Prison with long service medals, which included presentations for long service in the Virgin Islands Police Band.
A special presentation of awards in recognition of services rendered during the 1966 visit of Her Majesty was also made.
Mrs. Mignon Brewley, the widow of the late Mr. Earl Brewley, who owned the 1966 Buick Electra Convertible which transported The Queen, was presented with the number “QEII – 66” of the Special Edition Commemorative Licence Plates. Mr. Joseph Williams, the police officer who drove The Queen during Her 1966 visit received a plaque for his service.
His Excellency the Governor, Mr. John S. Duncan, OBE in his remarks, read a reply from Her Majesty to a letter sent on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands in celebration of her 90th birthday.
His Excellency shared that The Queen sends her warm, good wishes to the Government and people of the British Virgin Islands and was pleased to learn of the extensive celebrations to mark her birthday and the 50th anniversary of her visit.
The Queen commended the people of the British Virgin Islands for the great strides made in the economic, social and political development, while respecting the special character and unique environment of the islands.
Later in the evening, adults and children came out in numbers for the Beacon Lighting Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Youth representatives from Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, Anegada and Tortola lit beacons and winners and participants in the Essay Competition “What Does Being British Mean to You?” received awards. A 21 Gun Salute lit up the sky to end the celebrations and the audience paid tribute in song by singing Happy Birthday (Virgin Islands Style) at the various official observances.
Celebrations to mark the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II began with the recognition of the 50th anniversary of Her Majesty’s first visit to the Virgin Islands on February, 23.
Several activities were held in commemoration of The Queen’s 90th birthday. On March 24, a “Salt Breaking and Gifting Ceremony” was reenacted on Salt Island, to commemorate an age-old tradition together with the formal handover of a pound of salt to the Governor with onward submission to Her Majesty as a birthday gift.
Road Shows to the Territory’s schools were held at 12 schools across Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Jost Van Dyke. The commemorative BVI stamp collection titled “90 Years of Style” was released on April 20. The celebrations concluded with the official parade, official ceremony and beacon lighting programme.
Buckingham Palace approved the request from His Excellency the Governor, Mr. John S. Duncan, OBE, with the agreement of Cabinet of the Virgin Islands to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday, Thursday, April 21, as a public holiday in the Territory. Deputy Governor, Mrs. V. Inez Archibald, CBE headed a 12-member Cabinet-appointed committee to oversee the planning of events to commemorate the anniversary visit and The Queen’s 90th birthday.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the longest reigning Monarch and the Head of State of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth realms.