23. May 2006

Speech to their HRH Crown Prince Frederik and HRH Crown Princess Mary

Speech to their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary - Danish Tramway Museum - Tuesday 23 May 2006 - by Mikael Lund, Chairman of the Museum

Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished guests - Ladies and Gentlemen!

Velkommen til Sporvejsmuseet Skjoldenæsholm - Welcome to the Danish Tramway Museum.

In Denmark, we usually 'say it with flowers'. I am sure that this is also normal in Australia, but in connection with Prince Christian's birth and christening, they certainly showed some special creativity 'down under'. The official Australian gift was the four Tasmanian devils which can now be seen in Copenhagen Zoo - 'look but don't touch'! - while the state of Victoria chose to give something of its own soul from the city of Melbourne, namely one of its classic green trams. These trams enjoy almost iconic status there and are synonymous with the city of Melbourne - a city which continues to place its faith in trams as its main form of public transport. Although new and more modern trams have been introduced in the city over the past twenty years, the classic Melbourne tram, of which around 750 were built in the years 1923 to 1955 - and to which number 965 belongs - can still be seen there, and I am almost certain that the Crown Princess must have travelled on them many times in the years in which she lived in Melbourne.

And it is precisely a tram of this classic type, with its characteristic green colour, which now, after completing a voyage of 32,000 kilometres, is here with us at the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm, as the official gift from the state of Victoria to the Crown Prince, the Crown Princess and Prince Christian. The Australian gift givers, represented here today by Agent General David Buckingham and Mrs. Susan Allen, Australia's First Secretary in Denmark, must be congratulated on their innovative thinking, but naturally it pleases us just as much that the Crown Prince and Princess have accepted the gift without, it seems, much concern - at least as far as we know! Though to judge from the cartoons published in the newspapers, there may have been some discussion of exactly how to place a 17-ton, 2.73 metre wide and more than 14-metre long tram in the royal chambers!

Our Australian partners, the Sydney Tramway Museum, represented here today by its chairman, Mr Howard Clark, and vice chairman Mr Greg Sutherland, have played a considerable role in developing the gift idea in Australia, just as the shipping company A.P. Møller Maersk - represented today by its Executive Vice President, Lars-Erik Brenøe - have from the start treated this as a very special transport task which perfectly matched the company's attitude to all its transport work: delivery on time and with "constant care". As an added refinement, they even assigned the task of transporting the tram on the final long leg of its voyage from the reloading port of Yokohama to Aarhus to the Gudrun Maersk, a vessel which the Crown Princess herself named at the Lindø shipyard a year ago.

At the gift-giving ceremony in Melbourne on 10 November 2005, Consul-General Jørgen Møllegaard Kristensen accepted the tram on behalf of the Crown Prince and Princess from Victoria's Minister of Transport, Mr Peter Batchelor. Both are unfortunately unable to attend today, but they send their greetings. Jørgen Møllegaard, in particular, would very much like to have been present to personally pass the big green parcel to its new owners.

Here at the Danish Tramway Museum at Skjoldenæsholm, we are naturally proud to be able to give a home to the royal tram, and thereby help to fulfil the wish of the Australian givers for the tram to be used in a way which will benefit the whole Danish population, as a testament to the cordial relations between Australia and Denmark.

The museum is mainly concerned with trams and elderly buses from the three former Danish tramway cities of Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense, but it has also chosen from the start to have an international focus. This is a museum which is considered to be among the top five of its type in the world, and which enjoys broad national and international recognition; a museum which furthermore is under continual extension and development, and whose members, on an entirely voluntary, unpaid and idealistic basis - but with great passion and commitment - help to safeguard the cultural history of public transport and present it in a way which ensures that the museum's many visitors are given an exciting experience. It is consequently a particular pleasure for the museum's numerous staff members that the Crown Prince and Princess decided to say "yes, thank you" to this unusual Australian gift and store it here at the museum, where it will come into regular operation.

I also know that Ringsted Municipality, of which both the mayor and a large part of the council are here today, value and support the many initiatives that occur here at the museum, and which help to put Skjoldenæsholm and Ringsted on the map.

In a moment we will present the tram and ask the Crown Prince and Princess themselves - in turn - to take the controls and drive the tram down the museum track. There is no cause for concern - I can assure you that it is not very difficult to drive, and there will be expert assistance on hand. Here I have the special reversing key required. It is a particularly fine example, embossed with the royal monogram, which we will keep in special storage here at the museum, so that it will always be available, should the Crown Prince and Princess suddenly decide to drop in and take a trip on their own tram!

As a special memento of the day I would like to present the Crown Prince and Princess with this wooden model of the tram - 'Handcrafted in Australia' - which I hope will be a fun toy for Prince Christian and remind him and his parents that you do not need to go halfway around the world to experience 'the real thing' - you can do this just 80 kilometres from Fredensborg. And I might mention that the museum and the trams can make the perfect venue for children's birthdays and other special occasions. So in due course Prince Christian will have the unusual privilege of being able to invite his friends to a birthday party in his own tram!!

Here you are! And with that, I suggest we take a closer look at the tram.