ELVIS HAS LEFT THE AIRPORT...A LEGACY
By Maureen Ellis
It barely lasted more than an hour, was without so much as a curled lip, a hip swivel or a
note sung, and consisted of the King asking on at least two occasions exactly where on
earth he was, but the memory of Elvis Presley’s sole UK visit at Prestwick Airport won’t
quickly be forgotten.

Almost 50 years to the day since that DC-7 aircraft touched down in Ayrshire, one
corner of the country is dedicated to keeping Elvis always on the mind.

And next week, on March 3, Prestwick Airport will mark the golden anniversary of the
fleeting stopover made by 25-year-old Sergeant Elvis Aaron Presley, en route from
military service in Germany to Hollywood.

Even listening to a few bars of his music, or spotting a picture in a newspaper brings
back memories for Ian Ghee, who was an official British Air Ministry photographer
seconded to the US Air Force’s 54th Air Rescue Squadron.

“Every time I see or hear Elvis I’m immediately transported back to that night,” says Mr
Ghee, 75, who lives in Kilmarnock. “I really feel an affinity to him, although that’s maybe
slightly misplaced. I’ve had a lot of mileage out of that particular night.”

Mr Ghee was sworn to secrecy over the arrival of the VIP, who had already released
Love Me Tender, Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock and All Shook Up.

He managed to disguise elder brother George, now 79, as his assistant by equipping
him with a spool-less press camera and a case full of flashbulbs. Little did Ian realise it
would be “bold George” who would stride out to welcome Presley by shaking his hand on
his walking off the plane, or feature prominently in many of the photographs.

“I had to disown him because obviously it would have cost me my job,” recalls Mr Ghee.
“I was probably about 10-15ft away. All I heard was mumble, mumble, mumble. He’d said:
‘Welcome to Scotland, Elvis, we hope you have a nice trip back home’.”

While the aircraft was being refuelled, Mr Ghee spent around 45 minutes cataloguing
Presley signing autographs for fans, his visit to the airmen’s club and the sergeant’s
mess, where Presley made a phone call to Priscilla.

Even although he is one of only a handful of photographers given such access to Elvis,
Mr Ghee admits to a few regrets by not shaking hands nor having his own photo taken
with the star. Yet he still possesses a full set of prints, in addition to a treasured
collection of CDs, DVDs and tapes of the King.
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“He was very, very mannerly,” adds Mr Ghee, who worked for almost 30 years as a photographer with Scottish Aviation, which merged into British Aerospace.
“I read some reports that there was supposedly a driver – but he never used a taxi, he walked around – who said he was very arrogant and cheeky, which
was rubbish. It was ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’, ma’am this, ma’am that.”

Prestwick’s proudly held status as where Presley made his only footsteps on British soil was called into question in 2008 after reports that British rocker
Tommy Steele secretly accompanied the star on a sightseeing day out in London in 1958.

The claims, made by theatre producer Bill Kenwright haven’t been confirmed, and a spokeswoman for Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis denied the trip
ever took place. (Elvis Express Radio contacted BBC radio direct with statements from Marty Lacker & Lamar Fike and other information pointing out how
Tommy Steele and or Bill Kenwright were lying about the secret trip and challenged them to a debate on BBC radio...They declined our offer.)

The Elvis effect is keenly felt in Prestwick, where a plaque presented by two members of Elvis’s band, Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana, was unveiled in 1993,
and where you can sup a pint in a bar named Graceland.

Next Wednesday, Prestwick Airport’s 16-hour day of celebrations, with proceeds going to children’s charity Clic Sergeant, include a “best dressed” Elvis
competition, unveiling of another plaque and music from The MacDonald Bros.

Airport managing director Iain Cochrane said: “This is an opportunity to mark a milestone as well as promoting Ayrshire and bringing together the travelling
public, local people and fan clubs worldwide.”