The official opening of Coleg Llandrillo - or Llandrillo Technical College as it was known then - nearly six decades ago marked not only a new era in further education but the diamond jubilee of further education within the Colwyn Bay area.
Preparations for the Prince's visit had been extensive and clearly occupied the then principal, Mr W.J. Griffiths, and his chair of the Board of Governors, Mr D.B. Jones, for many months, as evidenced by the principal's 'Official Opening' file. Records indicate that a small subcommittee planned all the arrangements, with the director of education for Denbighshire responsible for official invites. A limit of 400 guests in the assembly hall was clearly a major challenge.
At 3.50pm on Wednesday 23 June 1965, two helicopters of the Queen's Flight arrived slightly later than planned, carrying H.R.H. Prince Philip, the Lord Lieutenant Col. J.C. Wynne Finch and the director of education for Denbighshire, Mr Mansel Williams.
In the words of the June 1965 edition of 'Technical Outlook', the official journal of the Caernarvonshire and Llandrillo Technical Colleges:
Crowds had been gathering outside the main gates of the college for about two hours. Troops of Scouts, Guides and Sea Rangers and a large proportion of the local constabulary were lined up on duty, and four hundred or so dignitaries, VIPs and townspeople were in the main hall and the foyer, when that exciting moment, for which preparations had been going on for the past weeks, arrived.
A cheer went up as the red helicopter piloted by the Duke himself landed behind the college. Students' faces appeared at all the windows as the Duke came round to the front entrance where he was introduced to Mr Griffiths, principal, looking very scholastic in his robes and mortar board, and other officials.
The two and a half hour event went as planned despite a strong wind which threatened the spectacle of the arriving helicopters. Prince Philip commented in his address:
I arrived as you may have noticed in one of the latest technical devices, but it is powerless to advance at any great rate against a strong wind.
A benefactor of the wind however was the newly erected flagstaff at the college entrance.
The day was primarily one of ceremony, and as the reception party entered the foyer, the plaque - which is still there to this day - was unveiled to commemorate the official opening to an audience of some 50 guests and 20 students. The words 'O Grefft i Gryfder' (from skill to strength) were to remain as the Llandrillo Technical College motto.
The guests then proceeded into the main hall, where fifteen of the stage party mounted the platform and led proceedings to a packed audience of over 400 guests, which included official reporters and the BBC. The chairman of the governing body opened proceedings and gave an address of welcome, before inviting Prince Philip to address the guests and declare the college officially open.
In his address, his Royal Highness spoke passionately about technical education and from the transcripts held he is noted as saying:
It takes considerable technical qualifications just to keep the equipment of this modern world functioning and reliable.
Prior to the close of the ceremony, two presentations were made to Prince Phillip, both very different in content. Mr Victor C. Wilde J.P., a major benefactor of the college, presented a deed stating that he would convey to Denbighshire Education Committee an area of approximately 12 acres of adjoining land to be solely used for recreational purposes. Alderman R.E. Rowlands, J.P., Chairman of Denbighshire County Council, presented a silver horse's head drinking cup which he hoped the Prince would remember from his visit to Denbighshire.
Prince Phillip then toured the college on a well-planned route that covered most areas of college activity. To ensure the tour was of interest not only to the royal guest but the many other guests in attendance, each area had made special preparations, which included: wig making in the Hairdressing department, hat making in the handicraft area, making beds in the home management area, dissecting rats in the Science department and the caterers carrying out cookery presentations, concluding with afternoon tea in the college restaurant.
Fast-forwarding to the twenty-first century, Coleg Llandrillo merged with Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor in 2010 and Coleg Menai in 2012 to form Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, the largest college group in Wales and one of the largest in the UK. The Grwp has over 27,000 students, and offers more than 3,000 full and part-time courses, from A-levels, BTECs, Modern Apprenticeships and NVQs, to HNCs, HNDs, foundation degrees, degrees and postgraduate studies.