By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on May 17, 2018
GOODE Beach resident Charles Pierce was so nervous before meeting the Queen earlier this month, he was suited up and ready to leave for Buckingham Palace five hours early.
His visit to the palace was no ordinary tourist trip – he flew halfway across the world to receive a medal from Queen Elizabeth II and be granted the title of ‘MBE’ at The Queen’s Birthday 2017 Honours List ceremony on May 4.
Mr Pierce was recognised for four decades of education services to Vanuatu, the country he called home for more than half his life.
The 77-year-old Englishman said after travelling throughout Asia in his younger days, he discovered the Baha’i faith, and it was through this faith he began his journey of teaching abroad.
He now calls Albany home and has done so for the past five years, in-between trips to Vanuatu.
“I’m a teacher by trade, and I heard through my Baha’i faith that people were needed in the Pacific, to help develop and grow the Baha’i people in the community,” he said.
“So I lived and worked for a year in Vanuatu, married my wife in Australia a year later in 1968, then in 1971 went back to Vanuatu and stayed there for 42 years.”
Mr Pierce said his work in Vanuatu focused on promoting unity and education within the Baha’i faith, building greater community cohesion and empowering people.
“One of the two questions the Queen asked me was what kind of education I was involved in,” Mr Pierce said.
“I told her I was principal of a secondary and tertiary school, was involved in training teachers, taught a Baha’i moral education program, and was involved in developing, producing and delivering a course in climate change.
“She thought it was wonderful.”
The other question the Queen asked Mr Pierce during the MBE ceremony was whether he lived in Vanuatu.
“I told her that I did, and that I remembered her visiting years ago, and that she wore a yellow dress,” Mr Pierce said.
“I think she was quite moved when I said that, she was smiling.”
Despite speaking with relative ease during his few moments with the Queen, Mr Pierce was a bundle of nerves in the hours leading up to his royal encounter.
He said he took an hour to carefully put on his suit, a piece of attire he hadn’t donned in 50 years.
“I was terrified,” he laughed.
“The night before the ceremony, I didn’t get to bed until after midnight and I was up at 4am.
“I just could not sleep.
“We had to be there at 9.45am but I was ready by 5am!”
After keeping it a secret from his family for two months, and finally receiving his medallion, Mr Pierce said the reality of being awarded MBE finally sunk in.
“It wasn’t real until I got the medal,” he said.
“I feel very privileged and honoured.
“But it’s not about the medal, it’s about what you have done to receive it.”
Photo: British Ceremonial Arts