Charles reflects on Aussie schooling

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Prince Charles meets with former teachers Dr Janet West (L) and Michael Collins Persse (C).Poring over the pages of history in a Victorian classroom more than 50 years ago, an unlikely bond formed between a high school teacher and the Prince of Wales.
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It was fitting then, that Prince Charles was reunited on Friday with his Geelong Grammar School history teacher in the drawing room of Brisbane’s heritage-listed Government House.

Michael Collins Persse was among those gathered to mark the royal’s 70th birthday year at an official reception, where he recalled the then 17-year-old as a young history buff with a unique access.

“He saw history from the inside,” Mr Collins Persse told AAP.

“He was a unique pupil in that, in his understanding of it.”

In 1966 the prince spent two terms at Timbertop, a rural outpost of Geelong Grammar School at the foothills of the Victorian Alps.

“He’s been a great friend ever since,” Mr Collins Persse added.

The pair have remained in contact over the decades, writing letters to one another and occasionally meeting face to face.

During his time at the school Charles was a well-behaved student, but was known to prefer outdoor adventures over classroom lessons.

“He did send me a lovely big Red Emperor … trouble is I didn’t know how to fillet it,” the prince’s former French teacher Janet West said.

The prince had caught the “enormous” fish during a trip to the Great Barrier Reef and carried it to the campus on ice, she said.

Charles despaired at how much time had passed since his brief n education, expressing mock scepticism towards approaching the age of 70.

“I do know only too well and understand the strange feeling of disbelief that this is actually happening and that never again, for instance, will it be possible to squeeze into a pair of budgie smugglers,” the prince told the crowd.

“Don’t worry’, they keep telling me, ‘You have great genes’, but the trouble is I can’t even get into them either.”

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