Crikey! Prince’s croc catch on display in Napier
It’s not every day you see a crocodile in suburban New Zealand, but in the lead-up to Prince Philip’s funeral, a Napier family has a reptilian head proudly on display as a tribute to their late grandfather’s unique connection with the late Duke of Edinburgh.
Susanna Clark inherited the preserved head, which was gifted to her famous late grandfather, Sir Percy Wyn-harris, by the Queen’s husband more than 60 years ago.
The colourful Sir Percy – an English mountaineer who climbed Mt Everest and also sailed around the world – worked in the Colonial Service in Africa and served as the Governor of Gambia, where he spent time with Prince Philip during his royal visit in 1957.
‘‘My grandfather was a remarkable man and lived a remarkable life,’’ Clark told Stuff.
‘‘Upon his death all his stuff was shipped over to my dad, an only child. And on my father’s death, all his bits that he’d inherited from my grandfather were distributed.
‘‘The crocodile head ended up being in my possession – much to my children’s horror at times.’’
The extraordinary tale of Sir Percy’s encounter with the prince, and the crocodile head, was revealed by Clark’s brother – Hawke’s Bay farming identity and regular RNZ rural news contributor Steve Wyn-harris – on air yesterday.
During their time together, Sir Percy struck up a good rapport with Prince Philip, and would later travel around the world helping him to establish the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, including here in New Zealand.
‘‘I think he was quite taken with my grandfather, [who] had been quite an adventurer,’’ Steve Wyn-harris told RNZ’S Jessemulligan. ‘‘He’d climbed to within 900 feet of the top of Everest in 1933 ... and they got on pretty well. Of course [Philip] was a great conservationist – but obviously not always, because they’d gone further up the Gambia River on this visit, on a smaller boat, and shot a couple of crocodiles.
‘‘And in all of my growing up, on the back step there was a dried crocodile head pinned to the side of the house, with ‘shot by his Royal Highness Prince Philip’ underneath.‘‘
He said he thought his sister, who now has possession of the crocodile head, ‘‘has it in the middle of her dining room table when she has flash dinner parties’’.
Grainy black and white footage of the Gambian river safari still exists, while a picture of the duke together with Sir Percy appeared on the cover of a 1957 issue of Paris Match, a French publication.
When asked about his prized croc catch, Prince Philip famously remarked: ‘‘It’s not a very big one, but at least it’s dead and it took an awful lot of killing!’’
Clark admits she doesn’t always have the crocodile head out on show, and only displays it in her private residence at her home, where she also runs an Airbnb called Hotel Suse. ‘‘I wouldn’t dare put my crocodile head downstairs, which is where my guests are. I tend to have it upstairs.’’
She says she currently has it out on display in respect for what went on between her grandfather and Prince Philip. ‘‘So the crocodile head is out there for the week. It may well go away again because I don’t like to scare too many guests at Hotel Suse.’’
She says friends and other visitors are often ‘‘horrified’’ when first confronted by the grisly relic, but they change their tune after learning of her grandfather’s royal legacy.
‘‘[They always say], ‘What on earth is that doing on the table? Really? We’re not having crocodile meat for dinner!?’ [But] they’re very impressed. And to be fair, it’s not our story, it’s our grandfather’s story ... We are extremely proud, as his kin, but it’s his doing, not ours. It’s a shame we didn’t know him for a bit longer, that’s all I can say.’’
Kiwi royalistswanting towatch the funeral of Prince Philip can choose to tune into either TVNZ 1 or Three, with both networks screening the proceedings live, starting at 11.30pm on Saturday. On TVNZ 1, they will be carrying the BBC’S coverage, while Three will air ITV’S, with both running into the early hours of tomorrow morning and expected to finish around 3.30am. For those that are unable to stay up towatch the royal funeral, Three will replay the procession and service on Sunday from 9am, running through until 10.30am, while TVNZ 1will repeat their full coverage from 10.30am until about 2.30pm. The funeral proceedings will also be available to viewon TVNZ Ondemand and Threenow.