A right Royal 1980s Sunderland welcome for Prince Charles

Ralph Baxter enjoys a joke from Prince Charles during his visit  to the Prince of Wales Community Venture centre.
Ralph Baxter enjoys a joke from Prince Charles during his visit to the Prince of Wales Community Venture centre.
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It was overcast skies which greeted Prince Charles on his visit to Sunderland that year.

But nothing was going to dampen the enthusiasm of the Royal visitor who came to town in 1985.

How we reported the Royal visit.

How we reported the Royal visit.

In fact, he was so impressed with what he was seeing, he was still chatting to his guests even when he was running more than an hour over schedule.

And he formed a strong impression of the people of Wearside ... they were an enthusiastic lot, he decided.

Chris Cordner looks back.

A Royal visit is always an occasion which brings out the crowds. It was no different in September 1985 when Prince Charles come to Sunderland.

The Prince responded to the huge greeting with a wave which delighted the crowds

Echo reporter, 1985.

And when he left, he promised that he would be back soon.

There was a motorcade arrival and huge crowds to greet him, including Yvonne Phuphrate, who was there with her sister Fiona McBride, from Hendon.

Yvonne said: “He does an enormous amount of good work for young people. He is always putting a lot of work into schemes to benefit them.”

The Prince was visiting the Community Venture Project, which he himself had initiated. In fact, he loved it so much it was his second visit there in four months.

Coun Baxter's warm welcome for Prince Charles.

Coun Baxter's warm welcome for Prince Charles.

The weather was not kind though. It was raining when he stepped out of the headquarters of the project, which was in St Thomas Street.

But as our Echo reporter said at the time: “The overcast weather did not dampen the enthusiasm of hundreds of onlookers.”

They got their reward when the Royal visitor came outside to talk with them.

“He managed to make time to chat with some of the well-wishers who had been standing patiently to see him for a couple of hours,” said the Echo reporter.

Previously, the Prince had spent an hour in private conversation with the organisers of the pilot scheme, as well as the representatives of the many organisations involved.

The Mayor, Coun Ralph Baxter, had earlier presented Prince Charles with a gift to help those running the centre in their work.

Coun Baxter also told Prince Charles that the project was one of the many causes he was supporting during his term of office.

To which the Prince replied: “We are very grateful that you have made this venture one of your main charitable causes.

“I am sure that this will make a great difference to the success of the operation. I am indebted.”

Who remembers the visit and were you one of the people to benefit from the project.

The idea of the scheme, which the Echo reported as having cost £18,000, was to help people aged from 18 to 24.

It would get them to do community work by helping the disabled or clearing derelict sites - just two examples of the ways in which it was expected to benefit.

Six boys and six girls from the Sunderland and Washington areas were initially chosen to be involved. Were you one of them?

However, after that, another 36 young people were expected to be added to the project.

The Prince said it was very rewarding to see how much progress had been made with the scheme since his last visit in May the same year.

He also spoke of his hopes for the future.

He said at the time: “What I would like to see personally is a situation in the community when young people are able to do a period of service to their own community so there is a feeling of contributing to their own community.”

During a light-hearted moment, the Royal guest was asked to sign the visitors book.

It prompted Tom Cowie, the then-chairman of Sunderland Football Club, to say: “You’re signing up for Sunderland then.”

Mr Cowie headed up a group of businessman who were helping to raise funds to finance the scheme along with an organisation called Business in the Community.

And from Sunderland, Prince Charles was due to move on to Causey Quarry near Stanley where he watched the first new recruits climbing and abseiling.

After that, he was being whisked off to Newcastle Airport for a return flight to London.

* Were you there that day for the Royal visit? Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk