Since sailing into Sydney Harbour’s Farm Cove in 1954 for the first of 16 visits to the nation, Queen Elizabeth, who died in the early hours of Friday morning, has touched the lives of millions of Australians.

Zaharoula Zervos from Kensington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs remembers waving to the young monarch when she visited Katoomba in 1954 and again in 1970 when the Queen drove along Macquarie Street to Government House.

Zaharoula Zervos of Kingsford, who saw the Queen during her visits in 1954 and 1970.Credit:Rhett Wyman

“When I woke up this morning I did cry because I remember her when she was young and full of life,” Zervos said.

“I’m very sad. When we were on Macquarie Street, the car was going very, very slowly and my daughter Kaliopi was right at the front and looked at the car. And the Queen turned around and looked at Kaliopi who still remembers it.”

Prince Charles, Princess Anne, the Queen and Prince Phillip leaving the Trocadero for Government House in Sydney in April 1970.Credit:George Lipman

Kaliopi, who also shed tears for the Queen, recalls the crowd pushing her up against the car and meeting the direct gaze of the Queen who smiled. “The crowd was surging, and I got pushed onto the window and my hands went up on the glass,” she said. “She looked at me and smiled.”

“She’s been a part of our lives for all our lives.”

Zervos said countries that had kept their kings and queens had thrived, unlike countries such as Iraq and Egypt that had failed after removing their royal families.

Now aged 85, the Greek Australian was 17 and living in Katoomba in 1954 when the Queen visited the town by train. She remembers yelling out “Yassou Philip” and being delighted to see the Prince wave back at her.

“The Queen will now be reunited with her beloved Philip,” she said.

Elaine Kelly, 85, of Lane Cove lined up for six hours on Macquarie Street after getting up at 4.30am just to catch a glimpse of the Queen pass by in a black limousine in 1954.

“It was a long, long wait and after all that there was just a glimpse of the Queen in a limousine for a few seconds,” she said. “I remember her as a pretty young lady. It was summer, and she had a summer dress on.”

It was during that first tour that the Queen visited Bondi Beach where local residents greeted her and surf clubs staged a Royal Command Surf Carnival in her honour. According to Waverley Council’s archives, 40,000 people crowded the beach with a further 60,000 crammed into other vantage points around Bondi.

“Shaded by a large white parasol, the Queen braved very non-English temperatures of 80°F (26°C), but according to contemporary reports ‘looked happy and refreshed’ in a buttercup yellow frock and a matching small feathered hat,” the Waverley Council fact sheet reports. “She wore white accessories and a three-strand pearl necklace.”

Queen Elizabeth II at Bondi Beach during her 1954 tour of Australia.Credit:NFSA

The royal couple watched surf races, a mock pillow fight on a greasy pole, running races and surf rescue displays. The archives report that “occasional heavy dumpers made conditions tricky and delighted the crowd” and that the Queen pointed excitedly as boats battled the surf. At one point seven surfboats overturned, including all the competitors in one race.

The Times of London reported that the Queen and her husband were so interested in the activities that they stayed for 40 minutes beyond their appointed time.

A member of the Bondi Surf Bathers Life Saving Club reportedly said on meeting the Queen that “for one so tiny, her handshake is quite strong and is possibly one of the greatest shocks one receives on being presented.”

Former Sydney radio presenter Russell Powell, who was among the journalists who met her in more recent years, was also surprised with her petite stature. “Media who are not normally overawed by too much had a feeling of awe as we filed in to meet her and Prince Philip. My recollection was that she was smaller than I thought she would be.”

Former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen was 11 years old and among the Sydney crowds waving at the Queen during her 1954 visit.

In 2006, he gave a sermon at St Andrew’s Cathedral for a Commonwealth Day service which the Queen attended. When he met her after the service he felt her warmth and graciousness.

“The thing on that occasion, but also throughout her life, that has been particularly interesting and impressive to me is her faith,” he said. “In August this year she said, ‘throughout my life the message and teachings of Christ have been my guide and in them, I find hope’. And that’s her. Her faith was genuine,” he said.

“Her response in the cathedral was … she was taking part. It wasn’t just a thing she did. It was real for her.”

After the church service, teacher Joy Rohrlach lined up her kindergarten students from St Andrew’s Cathedral School to greet the Queen.

Queen Elizabeth met kindergarten students from St Andrews Cathedral School in Sydney in 2006.Credit:St Andrews Cathedral School

“We formed a line between the school and the cathedral and the Queen came over, and the children were delighted to see her and waved,” Rohrlach said. “She was always so gracious and stopped and smiled at them, and they were just thrilled. I hope they remember it.”

For her part, Rohrlach said she felt teary about the Queen’s passing when she heard the news on Friday morning.

The Queen made a total of 12 visits to Sydney and 16 to Australia between 1954 and 2011, attending events including the opening of the Opera House in 1973.

Queen Elizabeth speaks at the opening of the Opera House in 1973.Credit:Archive

Herald reader David Hart said his grandmother, who adored the Queen, had fussed to get him ready to wave an Australian flag and watch her drive by in a black limousine in Newcastle when he was six years old.

“The Queen had disembarked her ship at the port of Newcastle, to drive past the crowds to continue to Sydney and Canberra … in 1970,” he said.

Another reader remembers being in the guard of honour that year along Missenden Road when completing National Service, saying he was thankful for the Queen’s long years of service.

In a statement, the NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the public’s “overwhelming jubilation and enthusiasm at seeing the young monarch was the beginning of the state’s long-held joy in her frequent visits”.

“Her Late Majesty will forever be connected to pivotal moments in our state’s history. She officially opened the Parliament of New South Wales in 1954, Sydney Opera House in 1973, Parramatta Stadium in 1986, and Darling Harbour in 1988,” he said.

“She also visited NSW regional areas including Newcastle, Lismore, Orange, Dubbo, Armidale, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga, drawing huge crowds of well-wishers.

“While we mourn her passing, it is the occasion for the people of NSW to offer thanks for a lifetime of public duty to the Crown, the Commonwealth, and to millions of people across the globe.”

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