Tributes to our Patron

16th April 2021 | News

This week we have been reflecting on how His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has helped shape our story over 55 years of Patronage. He was a part of some of the biggest moments in our history – visiting our newly acquired warehouse in Camberwell in 1987, encouraging us to change our name in 1994 and sharing his thoughts about our work on our 60th anniversary:

“It is easy enough to spot a problem, the challenge lies in finding an appropriate solution. That there would be a serious shortage of books in schools and colleges in the English-speaking world immediately after the Second World War must have been evident to anyone who thought about such things. However, it was the Countess of Ranfurly who thought of a solution, put it into practice and made a huge success of it. The Ranfurly Library Service was founded in 1954 and became Book Aid International in 1994.”  

Since his passing, members of the Book Aid International family have been sharing their memories of His Royal Highness. We have included a few of these tributes below:

Lady Caroline Simmondsdaughter of Book Aid International founder The Countess of Ranfurly 

In 1966 my mother, The Countess of Ranfurly, was delighted when His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh became the Patron of The Ranfurly Library Service. He was a great supporter of Youth, the Commonwealth and Education and realised the importance of books and literacy worldwide. 

 He took an interest in helping to get books to the most distant places on earth including the Research centre at the North Pole.

Over the years he took an interest in all aspects of the Ranfurly Library Service helping to get books to the most distant places on earth including the Research centre at the North Pole and even the delivery of books overseas via the Royal Yacht Britannia. 

In 1983 he visited The Ranfurly Library Service, which then operated from Kensington Barracks, and my father presented him with the 10th millionth book and in 1985 he sent a letter of encouragement saying that recently liberated Eastern Europe could ‘do with books’ which duly took place. 

It was the Duke’s suggestion the Charity should change its name to Book Aid International as it would be more recognisable. Having His Royal Highness as our patron for more than 50 years has indeed been a privilege and an honour. 

Gray Nyali, National Librarian, National Library Services, Malawi  

I remember the Late Prince Philip as a simple “down to earth” person who made me feel welcomed at Buckingham Palace when we visited in 2004. We were instructed that when his Royal Highness walked in, we should not shake his hand but just bow a little and say ‘Good evening your Royal Highness’. We also prepared our profiles which we handed over to a Book Aid International to read out to His Royal Highness.  

When the entry of His Royal Highness was announced we all stood up in readiness for his arrival. To our surprise, in contrast to the instructions we were given he was the first to stretch out his hand towards me, so I had no choice but to shake it. He shook hands with everyone in the room. 

He was the first to stretch out his hand towards me, so I had no choice but to shake it. He shook hands with everyone in the room.

The next memorable moment was when we were ushered into the dining room. The Book Aid International staff started introducing us as delegates using our profiles, but His Royal Highness interjected. He said ‘No, let them introduce themselves since they are in the room and they know their countries very well.’ 

When I mentioned ‘Malawi’ he responded that he had been Malawi before. He made each of us feel at ease. We had a wonderful dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. He was a man of the people who cared about humanity. May his soul rest in peace.” 

Nigel Newton, Founder and Chief Executive Bloomsbury Publishing Plc and President of Book Aid International

“Prince Philip was everything you have read in the press – charming and smiling, irreverent and engaging. I had dinner with him in a wonderful dinner at Buckingham Palace for Book Aid International’s beneficiaries, the national librarians of thirteen African countries who arrived in swirling bright silk.

Prince Philip was everything you have read in the press – charming and smiling, irreverent and engaging.

At the end of Book Aid International’s 2017 reception in St James’ Palace he provided an unscripted finale when he thanked all publishers present for getting their print runs so badly wrong that they had so many excess overstocks to donate to the charity. We felt suitably humbled at this mention of our ineptitude as he went away chuckling into the night.”

Sallieu Turay, Chief Librarian, Sierra Leone Library Board 

I recall meeting His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh at St. James Palace on the evening of March 21 2017 during a reception organised by Book Aid International. He was such a warm person, especially when His Royal Highness engaged me in a conversation relating to the work of the Sierra Leone Library Board and partnership with Book Aid International.

He was such a warm person.

I was impressed with his knowledge of Book Aid International’s work and partners. You could see that His Royal Highness was a committed personHe will be missed by Book and International and its partners. 

Lord Boateng, Chair of Book Aid International 

His Royal Highness knew what it was not always to have a steady home, to find your family in difficult circumstances. Books can give people a sense of hope and expectation for the future – and it was a hope that he always realised and saw the potential of. In Africa where I was brought up we have a phrase which we use when people of significance have passed on. We say “a mighty tree has fallen”, and with the Duke of Edinburgh a truly mighty tree has fallen. 

With the Duke of Edinburgh, a truly mighty tree has fallen.