Royal visits to Poole always create a bit of a buzz about the town, but none more so than when Princess Diana visited on 14 September 1988. 

Crowds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of her as she visited Poole Hospital to light a candle to launch the Great Ormond Street Hospital Wishing Well Appeal, part of a national effort to raise £100,000 in 14 days for the children’s hospital. 

She went on to visit Lighthouse to mark the tenth anniversary of it opening as Poole Arts Centre. She watched Bournemouth Sinfonietta rehearsing Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba for a performance that evening before dropping in on a children’s Funshop where London City Ballet, of which she was patron, was hosting a workshop with 15 students from Wareham Middle School. 

She also visited students of Corfe Hills School as they rehearsed for a production of Guys and Dolls – a show the princess confessed she had not seen. 

The biggest crowds of the day were outside Lighthouse where thousands waited to see Diana arrive. Among them was Helen Ewen, who managed to get close enough to snap a few photos that she has kindly shared with us...

“I was such a big fan of Diana, she was our Queen of Hearts, she really was,” says Helen who brought up her family in Poole and now lives in Aberdeen.  

“When I found out she was coming to Poole I just had to get there, so I got the girls off to school and made my way to the arts centre. 

“There was a sea of people – I have no idea how they coped in the bus station with so many people, but the air was electric I can tell you. I’m only 4 foot 10 so I got my head down and burrowed my way to the front and came out right by the main doors.  

“There were some children in front and that’s only right and a little girl in a wheelchair who Diana came over and spoke to – they will have memories that last a lifetime. It was amazing to get so close and to be able to take those photos. Every time I look at them it takes me right back to that day. I’m 73 now and I’ll never forget it. 

“I got married in 1968 and moved to Poole with my husband Ian and we were there for 50 years. Two of my girls – Annette and Lynda still live in Poole and Christchurch – and I miss seeing my grandchildren terribly. I long for the day when I can see them again, but I will be patient, I will be patient. 

“What I remember most about Diana was that she was so kind. People listened when she spoke and I can’t help feeling she would have put people at ease in all this and explained why it is so important to have the jab. We really miss her.” 

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Published 15 March 2021