“And what do you do?” is often said to be the first question asked by a Royal when they meet a member of the public.
And that question caused no little embarrassment for then Mayor of Kirklees Clr Mohan Sokhal MBE when he met Prince Charles in Marsden back in 2001.
Clr Sokhal brought smiles and laughter to the council chamber at Huddersfield Town Hall when he recalled his encounter with the future King Charles III at Tunnel End in Marsden.
As mayor Clr Sokhal was on ceremonial duty when the then Prince Charles, Patron of the Waterways Trust, opened the newly-restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal on September 3 2001.
Clr Sokhal told a special meeting of Kirklees Council how the Prince arrived by Royal train at Marsden Station.
Clr Sokhal, now 78, recalled how he greeted the Royal visitor and said: “I remember him asking me what I did for a living when I was not being a mayor – and I was a bit embarrassed to say ‘a bus driver’!
“I avoided answering his question but he was such a nice and friendly man. Later he asked me again while we enjoyed a cup of tea. He had not forgotten the question!
“He said: ‘I asked you a question but you did not answer me.’ So this time I could not avoid the question and I had to tell him I was a bus driver. I had to admit it! He said: ‘That’s great! Why are you so shy about it?’”
Later on, as he was about to leave, the future King playfully bade farewell to the mayor with a gesture like he was driving a bus. “We had a good laugh about it,” said Clr Sokhal.
Two months later Clr Sokhal went to Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE – presented by Prince Charles. “Oh, we meet again!” said the future Monarch.
Clr Sokhal added: “He must have recognised me. What a very good memory he must have. I think King Charles III will be a great Monarch, just like his mother, and I wish him great success.”
The opening of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal is one of the outstanding successes in canal restoration. It had been derelict for 50 years when it was re-opened to boats in 2001.
Prince Charles walked along the canal towpath to the visitor centre where he unveiled a special commemorative way marker.
Images below copyright of Dave Calverley Galleries.PhotoLens.co.uk
Huddersfield Canal Society president David Sumner MBE recalled the day Prince Charles joined David Fletcher, CEO of British Waterways (BWB), and other dignitaries at Marsden – and ventured into Standedge Tunnel, the longest, deepest and highest canal tunnel in the country.
“We had a three-week notice of his visit and a short trip into the tunnel was arranged followed by a reception in the restored warehouse,” said Mr Sumner.
“I had the pleasure of accompanying His Royal Highness in the front of the electric tunnel boat with David Fletcher, Derek Cochrane and Fred Carter, all from BWB.
“Fred regaled His Majesty with many anecdotes, the history of the tunnel and its refurbishment. Once in the warehouse I introduced his Majesty to members of our society who were key to the success of the restoration.
“I explained that the project, which took 27 years since our society was formed, was eventually a team effort.
“It was led in the last three years before the opening by a partnership, the Huddersfield Canal Company, comprising BWB, Oldham, Tameside and Kirklees councils and the society.
“Our future King was well briefed for his visit and knew of the canal as a long-standing Patron of the Trust and, as a keen environmentalist, he paid tribute to our society.
“We were very grateful to receive the Royal seal of approval and we welcome him as our new King and remember with deep affection the day 21 years ago when all our past efforts were rewarded by his visit.”