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Gordonstoun releases images of Duke of Edinburgh’s school days while pupils pay tribute


By Lorna Thompson

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PREVIOUSLY unseen images of the Duke of Edinburgh have been released by Gordonstoun, his former school.

The images were taken by the great-uncle of a former student, who contacted the school following the sad news of the passing of Prince Philip.

They show the Duke in happy times in 1937, sailing one of Gordonstoun’s boats, Diligent.

In one image Philip shows his confidence at the helm. In the other he demonstrates his confidence doing the washing up.

The young Duke of Edinburgh on board Gordonstoun School’s boat, Diligent, in 1937. Picture: Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C.
The young Duke of Edinburgh on board Gordonstoun School’s boat, Diligent, in 1937. Picture: Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C.

Diligent was a small, elderly Cornish trading ketch, which was bought in Plymouth in June 1936 by Michael-Noel Varvill, a yachtsman who was on the school’s staff.

She was Gordonstoun’s first offshore vessel and was put to work immediately with a cruise to Fair Isle and Shetland in July 1936.

She was the first of a considerable number of schools’ and charities’ sail training vessels in the UK. The vessel was quite heavily used in term-time and the summer holidays, which benefited several pupils who had no particular family home to return to.

The young Duke of Edinburgh doing the washing up on board Gordonstoun School’s boat, Diligent, in 1937. Picture: Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C.
The young Duke of Edinburgh doing the washing up on board Gordonstoun School’s boat, Diligent, in 1937. Picture: Copyright Major B Varvill R.A.M.C.

Meanwhile, Gordonstoun pupils took part in an early-morning run in tribute to Prince Philip on Friday, April 16.

Morning runs were a compulsory part of the Gordonstoun curriculum until the 1990s.

More than 100 students and staff, running in household groups, undertook the 3.5km route from Gordonstoun House to the nearby Coastguard Watchtower, a building which replaced a wooden hut which Prince Philip helped to build in 1935.

Gordonstoun School pupils pay tribute to Prince Philip in an early-morning run on Friday, April 16, from the school to the nearby Coastguard Watchtower.
Gordonstoun School pupils pay tribute to Prince Philip in an early-morning run on Friday, April 16, from the school to the nearby Coastguard Watchtower.

The Duke of Edinburgh was a member of the Watchers, a precursor to the Coastguard, during his time at school. He returned to open the new Coastguard Watchtower in 1955.

Gordonstoun’s young sailors will pay their own tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh at midday today, April 17, when, aboard the school’s 80ft sail training boat, Ocean Spirit of Moray, they will lay a wreath off the coast of Hopeman Harbour, where Prince Philip first learned to sail.

On the shore, a lone student piper will play while displaying the Duke of Edinburgh’s Coat of Arms on a banner presented to the Gordonstoun pipe band by the Queen in 2019.


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