10 September 2017

Diana, Princess of Wales: Learning of her Death when in Tonga.

Recently there has been quite a bit about Diana, Princess of Wales, because it has been the 20th anniversary of her tragic death in France. Several people have proffered the information that they can remember the exact when and where of learning about her death - as many people can about
the deaths of people like US President, John F Kennedy. Me too, so here is my story about learning of her death.

Approaching Ata Island
Catherine, the prisoner, on Ata Island


Catherine and I joined Jim and Ann Wilson in Tonga for a bit of cruising about the islands in the southern group aboard "Karoro", their yacht. On a particular day we made our way towards an island where we anticipated spending the night anchored just offshore. Jim and Ann were cooking that night and suggested that we go ashore for a walk. This we did, landing on a nice beach and walked towards the other end of the beach where we could see a jetty and a motor boat. One of the men saw us coming and started walking towards us. He was a huge Tongan and although he was speaking good English his voice was so thick that we couldn't understand what he was saying. So he indicated that we should follow him and started walking back to their boat. When he turned away from us we began to get some idea of where we were. On the back of his blue overalls was stencilled "His Majesty's Prison, Tonga". When we arrived at the motor boat another Tongan was sorting supplies. He explained that we were indeed on a Tongan penitentiary island and that we would have to leave. But he quickly changed the subject and asked if we had TV on our yacht. No, we laughed, Karoro was a small yacht, comfortable, but for economical cruising. Jim would be appalled at the idea of TV on his yacht. "Why?" we asked. The superintendent explained that he had just heard that Princess Diana had been seriously injured in a car crash and that he was interested in any news.

We asked, as it was getting late in the day and we were surrounded by coral heads where we were anchored, if we could leave the following morning. He agreed but warned us not to allow anyone aboard the yacht. That night it was the ladies turn to sleep on deck. We gave them each a heavy spanner with which to repel any invaders.