Wearside Echoes: Sunderland’s Royal celebrations in Silver Jubilee year

HAPPY TIMES: Sponsored cycle ride - Dame Dorothy Street in 1977
HAPPY TIMES: Sponsored cycle ride - Dame Dorothy Street in 1977
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TODAY we continue our through-the-decades celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a look at Wearside’s Royal events in the 1970s.

IT was flags, flowers and cheering all the way as tens of thousands of Wearsiders welcomed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh back to the North East in Silver Jubilee year.

Wearsiders dressed as Vikings enjoy the River Wear Pageant in July 1977.

Wearsiders dressed as Vikings enjoy the River Wear Pageant in July 1977.

The Queen and Prince Philip arrived at the Wearside boundary from Gypsies Green Stadium on July 15 and, all along the route into Sunderland, they were greeted by cheering crowds.

“Among the crowds were thousands of schoolchildren, who left their classrooms for an hour or so for the rare chance of a glimpse at the Queen as she drove past,” reported the Echo.

Not everything, however, ran to plan. Not only did the Royal couple arrive late, but for one brief moment many hearts missed a beat – when a youth threw something at the Queen’s car.

Jenny Hall, of Dorking Road in Sunderland, had been waiting patiently for more than an hour on the sea front for a glimpse of the Queen when she suddenly spotted the suspicious youth.

“What he threw was a stick of mint rock, we found out afterwards,” she said. “We think it landed on her lap. For a moment she really looked frightened – it could have been anything.

“We spoke to the youth afterwards, and all he did was stick his tongue out. He thought it was funny, but I don’t. It was a stupid thing to do and spoiled the day for us.”

The Queen, however, appeared to quickly recover from the shock and, as the cavalcade drove on through Dame Dorothy Street and across Wearmouth Bridge she kept on smiling.

Indeed, the town centre was almost deserted as shoppers, shop assistants and office workers left their desks and counters to greet her on the drive along St Mary’s Street.

Also lining the streets were workers from Sunderland Shipbuilders’ North Sands Yard, who down tools to “play truant” for the occasion – after being refused any official time off.

“Shop roof tops provided enterprising Wearsiders with a bird’s eye view of the Queen. Less adventurous onlookers leaned out of shop windows,” the Echo reported.

Wearsiders also took to the streets in their thousands to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee on June 7, 1977, with parties, picnics and dances being the order of the day.

“Sunderland housewives have embarked on the biggest bake-in in local history, happily slaving over hot stoves for more than 1,000 street parties,” the Echo revealed.

** Look out for our new Royal Retro magazine, featuring photos of Wearside’s Royal celebrations over the decades. It will be published in July.

Sidebar: Other Royal visits of the 1970s

WEARSIDERS lined the streets when Princess Margaret arrived in town to open Sunderland’s new Civic Centre in November 1970.

After unveiling a plaque she told guests: “This splendid centre is the outcome of years of hopes and plans. It will, I’m sure, remain a focal point in the community.”

WEARSIDE’S jobless found a sympathetic listener during a Royal visit on May 11, 1972.

“Prince Philip got so involved with the problems of the men at the town’s Employment Exchange that he fell well behind schedule,” the Echo reported.

THOUSANDS of people lined the streets to welcome a Royal “canny lass” to Washington in July 1974.

Princess Anne made her first visit to the town to officially open The Galleries shopping centre, with one shopper telling the Echo: “She’s a canny lass.”