ON Thursday it was announced that the 95-year-old Duke of Edinburgh would cease performing public duties later this year.
Those duties brought him to Swindon on several occasions.
The first was on February 12, 1960, when he visited to perform two duties, and crowds of cheering spectators lined the streets along his route.
The first of those duties was at the Drill Hall in Church Street, where he presented an accolade called the Trophy Challenge Shield to 4th Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment (TA).
Later that day, he visited what was then Pressed Steel but is now BMW’s plant in Stratton St Margaret, where he was given a guided tour by managers and frequently paused to speak with production line workers. During this period, the Duke was very active in promoting British Industry and encouraging bosses to make their businesses as competitive as possible.
He returned to Swindon only a little over a year later, on Friday, April 14, 1961. The Duke began a busy day in Swindon when he arrived by helicopter on new playing field at Drakes Way in Walcot.
His first duties were to officially open the fields, unveil a plaque on the sports pavilion and start three cross-country races.
His car was then driven along a route lined with cheering residents to the town centre, where he unveiled a plaque commemorating the start of work on what would eventually become the shopping area we know today.
After that, he headed for Regent Circus and what was then the new extension to Swindon College. The building was to remain until 2012, when it was demolished to make way for the Regent Circus Development.
Among the dignitaries, students, staff and spectators who greeted the Duke outside the college was a four-legged gatecrasher in the form of a stray dog. The creature was duly acknowledged by the amused royal visitor.
The next time the Duke had business in Swindon was in June of 1971 when he accompanied the Queen to the opening of the Wyvern Theatre and the new civic centre of which it was a part.
It wasn’t until February of 2003 that he returned to the town, where he faced a day every bit as busy as the one he had spent there 42 years earlier. As had happened in 1961, he visited a college, but this time it was New College, where he talked to students about their courses.
His other duties were the official opening of the Great Western Hospital and the switching on of the Jubilee Clock.
The clock, created in honour of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee the year before, stood for several years in the town centre before being removed, repaired and re-sited at the station.