Peter Woolsey

Prince Philip, “you never know what you can do until you try”.

Prince Philip changed many people’s lives. Mine was one. My Head master wrote to my father saying I was a failure. He could not waste tax payer’s money entering me for ‘A’ level exams. I was sixteen. My father had just been told he was dying, slowly. My Dad had to pay for me to take my ‘A’ levels. I was distraught. I had to win a place at Manchester University.

Then, I met Prince Philip in Manchester at the first D of E event in 1957. It was at the YMCA where they had a swimming pool and had planned a kayak demonstration. Someone forgot to organise this. My head master had to give me a pound get me in a taxi to my home to collect my kayak and get to the YMCA where two boys were waiting for me to put them into a kayak and teach them how to stay upright, before the Duke arrived a few minutes later.

I was desperately trying to explain to the two boys how to stay upright. Telling them to keep their paddle across the kayak cockpit to provide more stability. A voice said, ‘What are you doing?” Without thinking I said ‘Praying!’. Then turned around and was face to face with Prince Philip. ‘Explain?’ he said. So, I told him the truth. He roared with laughter. He asked me about my kayaking experience: I’d just kayaked from Manchester to near Windsor via canals and the river Thames. He was fascinated, especially when I answered his question, why did you do it? When I replied, my kayak was not suitable for ‘white water’ so I decided to do something different for my D of E Writing project and see if I could publish an article in the Manchester Guardian. I did and they paid me three guineas for the article. To which he replied: “ You will never know what you can do until you try’. I never forgot his words.

Despite my Head Master’s prediction, in 1968, I was able to give him a copy of my MBA Thesis on Marketing Intelligence.