When we found out the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were including Dubbo in their tour of Australia - and that Langley’s was going to have a role in their transportation - several thoughts went through my mind.
First and foremost was - ‘How fantastic for Dubbo. For morale, for the economy and for making our mark on the global stage.’
The second was ‘Oh dear. This is going to require some serious planning.’
And I soon began to feel.... a bit stressed.
But then I looked at my daughter - Office Manager and major Royal fan - Sarah, and saw the big goofy smile on her face. She was just so excited and I couldn’t help myself. I was giddy too.
Yes, it was going to be a lot of work and the next couple of months were going to be very busy - but my goodness, what a privilege it was to be involved.
And we were going to do our best to make Dubbo proud.
Initially, we were asked to organise our fleet and prepare for a special guest, who was going to take a tour of the area.
Royal staffers and advisors came out for a scouting tour, but we weren’t told who they were. The details were very vague, but we know it was someone important, because there was going to be a motorcade - and because of the amount of vehicles involved. They wanted coaches to handle in excess of 150 journalists.
This was even bigger than a high level politician. This was an international guest.
Then our resident 007 spy Sarah began to do some digging. She realised the Invictus Games were taking place at the same time as this visit and she began to guess who our visitors were.
And as we began to speculate, more pieces of the puzzle came together. Then, we received confirmation from the Director of Transport for the tour - it was Harry and Meghan. And off Sarah went, crown shopping.
But of course, this was not our first official duty - we knew the rules. And they were very strict - everything had to stay within the camp. Nobody was allowed to know we were involved and we were not at liberty to disclose any details.
So we planned discreetly and quietly. It was quite a challenge to keep this special information from our customers!
The lead up
There was a hell of a lot of polish.
Our vehicles are always in great condition - but they needed to be in ROYAL condition.
Our staff did a bloody wonderful job. I honestly can’t express how hard they all worked. They knew the importance of this special role we had to play and they went above and beyond.
We began to discover deeper logistics. They required five vehicles from us - two bigger coaches (6 star) and three of the smaller vehicles so they could access closures easily and quickly.
One was part of the advance team, another in the motorcade, another was for the official photographer, the others for the journalists.
But our job didn’t end there. We are here to service the people of this region - and just because the Royals needed us doesn’t mean we couldn’t make time for our communities.
We had schools calling up needing vehicles. Some schools were officially invited and they needed to get to the airport - others wanted to bring their kids in from out of town, to be a part of the celebrations.
One school had 450 kids.
In total, we had 30 vehicles scheduled to be out that day.
It was the logistics challenge of a lifetime - but I’m proud to say we pulled it off.
The moment I will never forget
So we had the vehicles arranged - we needed to put drivers in them.
We went through our roster, making sure our experienced drivers were aware of where they needed to be on the day and who they were transporting.
Then it came down to deciding who was going to be in the motorcade.
It was definitely a special role and I told Sarah one of our other experienced drivers should do it, as a reward for working with us for so long.
She looked at me, very seriously, and said ‘Dad, we’ve been chosen, out of everybody, to do this.’
‘You built this company and you’ve worked so hard. This is your moment. Don’t pass this amazing opportunity up. Just take it and enjoy it - you deserve it.’
I don’t like being the centre of attention. But to see my daughter, so proud of me, made me want to do it again - to make her proud by being part of history.
Sarah convinced me that this was a moment I didn’t want to miss. And boy, was she right.
I can now pass this story on to my grandchildren - and through each generation of our family.
The day the world saw Dubbo shine
And so the big day arrived.
There was Sarah, set up at Ground Control. With her headset, the tracker screen, a bundle of papers with routes and contact numbers.
She had extra two ways set up, so we could all communicate at all times.
She was constantly checking bookings to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be, nobody was left behind.
Meanwhile, there was me, in a secure area at the airport, tracking the jets into Dubbo, thinking goodness me what have I got myself in to. Don’t screw it up Phil!
Harry and Meghan’s plane landed and they emerged. We watched them chat to all the kids on the tarmac, then we set up the motorcade while they were doing their duties.
As we were coming out of the airport - the rows and rows of people started to appear.
I have never seen so much excitement in my life. The people were in raptures. Grown men were leaping in the air, after getting a special wave from the couple.
People were crying, hugging each other.
They could almost touch the cars as we went by.
There was just so much happiness.
I’m not ashamed to say, it brought a tear to your eye.
And it wasn’t just me, who has a deep love for the people of Dubbo, who thought this was special.
I was in the bus with some of the official reporters. They began standing up, reaching over my shoulders, trying to get pictures of all the people.
They said to me ‘This couple obviously gets a big reception around the world, wherever they go. But this is something different. This is another level.’
I was just so proud.
The rest of the day went by in a bit of a blur, but was full of moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Nobody had been told in advance which property they were going to visit, for security reasons. So heading out there, there weren’t as many people on the side of the road, because they hadn’t known in advance they would be there.
But when we were leaving, as we came back onto the main road, there was a small group of about 20 people standing there, with toys and flowers. They had obviously caught wind of where they were and had rushed out to get a glimpse.
Half of the cars in the motorcade had already driven past them, when the car Harry and Meghan were in abruptly stopped. I watched, awestruck, as they hopped out and ran straight to the kids. They hugged them and took the gifts and had a chat. It was completely unscheduled and unplanned. But they didn’t want these people to miss out.
Heading back into town the rain was really coming down. I felt bad for the poor blokes on the motorbikes! I couldn’t see the car 50 meters in front of me, so we slowed right down to a crawl.
I gotta say, it was very unusual to drive into Dubbo without being cut off at the roundabout!
Throughout the rest of the day, I was just blown away by how many people had turned out, in this weather, just to see them. Of course we all knew the Park was going to be packed, but it was the people lining the streets that I couldn’t believe.
As we drove past the Holy Spirit Aged Care facility, everyone was there, in their wheelchairs, in the rain - huge smiles on their faces. Even this older generation, who are used to the traditional Royals, like the Queen, love these two. They just bring joy to everyone.
After all the visits around town, we drove back to the airport, right onto the airport tarmac and circled around the airforce jets.
We helped collect and sort all the flowers and gifts. Every single gift that included any sort of writing or personalised message, were taken for the couple and will go back to Kensington Palace. Everything gets documented - so those who gave something that included their name, should get a thank you note back from the couple.
I was really touched by how seriously they took this job - the security team made sure every single note was put aside - they even went through each set of flowers, to see if any contained notes. They were under strict instructions - not one message could be missed.
And then they were walking back up the steps, on to the plane - and it was over as soon as it started.
And I thought to myself - we did good.
We are a special bunch
Seeing the happiness Harry and Meghan brought to the entire region is something I will remember forever.
It was tangible, it was in the air. The atmosphere was electric.
I think we’ve all seen the beautiful footage of young Luke Vincent, from Bunninyong School, stroking Harry’s beard. And the interview on the Today Show the following day with Principal Anne Van Dartel, where he gave the entire country a double thumbs up.
This will be an absolute highlight for Luke, and it put that sensational school on the national stage.
I was just so proud of where I live, of the people who make up these communities. Sometimes things are tough, but it doesn’t get us down.
We put on an almighty show for all the world to see. I doubt we will ever be dismissed as a ‘small town in the Central West’ ever again.
What it means for Langley’s
To be part of such an important, momentous occasion, was such an honour.
Being in this transport and touring industry, we are tasked with an important job - to provide a special experience for our customers, and to keep people safe.
To me, being asked to be involved in this, was an acknowledgement of our reputation. It demonstrates that people trust us, and appreciate us.
We have been involved in large scale events before - the G20, the Commonwealth games - but to be a part of something like this has been a feather in our cap. To see our Langley’s vehicle, with our logo, standing in amongst those very important cars, was very moving for me.
It proves that this is what happens when you put the effort in, and do things right. If you have a quality service, you earn a place at the table for these big, history making events. It reinforces everything we’ve ever worked to achieve.
But - just because we’re patting ourselves on the back and basking in the post royal buzz - this doesn’t mean we’re not looking towards the future.
Each bus involved in the Royal tour will be honoured with a little monument - so we can always remember this special day. But now, we gather ourselves up again, and look towards the brilliant tours we have coming up, and start thinking of new ideas we can implement, to make Langley’s even bigger and better.