Queen Elizabeth counts these Waikato farmers as "true friends"

Royal Family 16/11/2018

Don and June Ferguson, from Otorohanga in the Waikato, hold a long-running friendship with the Queen herself, spanning over 40 years.

Don is a world-renowned Jersey breeder, first making contact with Queen Elizabeth in the mid 1970s when he sent cow to England to bolster the Windsor herd. 

During the Queen's visit to New Zealand not long after, the couple shared an afternoon tea in Hamilton with the Queen and Prince Philip. This was to be the first of many occasions shared between the trio across the following decades. 

June recalls the incredibly special day in 1990 when her and her late husband welcomed the Queen herself into their home for a private cup of tea, some pikelets and tarts. 

"It's not every day people can say they hosted the Queen in their own home!" 83-year-old June declared. 

The south Waikato rural community all came together to make the day one to remember: "We had a garden party with the neighbours and various Jersey breeders. It was a private gathering. One neighbour made blueberry tarts and my sister-in-law, who lives close by, made the pikelets," June said.

They were even blessed by the Queen breaking royal protocol and posing for photos with the Ferguson family. 

"Don asked if he could have a family photo and the powers that be were saying 'oh no, she never has photos with anyone but her own family.' But she agreed and had a photo taken with our family."

"We've been guests of the Queen a number of times over the years – I guess we're personal friends. At one point, we managed the royal herd for about four months. We used to go up to the castle and have an audience with her, and the corgis would be pushing up against our legs!"

"I suppose when you've got common interests it might be a little bit easier, but it's really just like talking to anyone else."

Don reportedly had frequent contact with the Queen, keeping her up to date with important news about the herd, especially the cattle Her Majesty had a stake in. 

"If something was going on, he'd ring and have a chat with her."

"When Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother died, Don phoned and offered his sympathy. Occasionally, she would say the family's just like our family. When she was out here at a garden party at Government House, she came and put her hand on Don's arm and said, 'Thank you very much for ringing me. It's nice to know I've got true friends.' Don thought that was lovely."

Don sadly passed away last year after a battle with cancer. June told of his last conversation with the Queen: "He had only been talking to her a few days before and she said, 'I knew by his voice that he wasn't lasting long.'"

Warren Ferguson, 58, has taken over his father's role on the farm, and says the bond Don shared with the royals was special: "Dad and her spoke about the cows, but they'd also talk about the grandkids just like anyone else."