SWINDON had a royal visitor this week half a century ago.

It was Princess Margaret’s third visit to the town in 11 years.

The train bringing the Queen’s sister from Paddington on the Friday was met at Swindon by local dignitaries including the Lord Lieutenant, town mayor Alf Bown and David Murray John, the visionary town clerk whose impact is memorialised by the tower bearing his name.

A motorcade then headed for the Civic Offices, where four hours of official duties began with a signing of the visitors’ book.

Then it was time for lunch, and our reporter, clearly a stickler for detail, wrote: “The hors d’oeurves was an egg dish, followed by cold salmon served with mixed salad and vegetables.

“The sweet was peaches on ice cream, covered with fresh pineapple and whipped cream. White burgundy was served with the main course, followed by vintage port and liqueurs.”

That afternoon, Princess Margaret visited the Legge House youth adventure centre in Wroughton, and officially opened a hostel for young women, Townsend House, in Bath Road, Old Town.

She was greeted there by Bishop Oliver Tomkins of Bristol.

Both buildings still stand. Legge House is still a youth adventure centre, while Townsend House had a number of incarnations and was empty for some time before being converted into flats.

The royal visitor’s car was cheered along much of its route by members of the public.

At one point, we said: “Groups of children from Queenstown Infants’ School in Fleming Way waved and cheered as the motorcade passed the school. A number of people waved from bus shelters and several men took off their hats as the Princess smiled and waved from the car.”

The same edition of the Adver carried a story of an entirely different kind which was very much of its time. Chiselling Into a Man’s World, ran the headline of a story about DIY classes for women.

An Adver reporter wrote: “Ten women, all with the glint of determination in their eyes.

“One man stands alone, pensive and apprehensive.

“This is not the setting for a James Bond thriller but the Westbourne Evening Centre, Swindon.

“I was taking a look at a carpentry class run on Wednesday afternoons mainly for housewives who - and don’t ask me how they find it - have time on their hands.

“And the lone man? Well, that’s a bit of a fib actually, because there were two men there.”

One was a lone male student, while the other was instructor Fred Clifton, who said the classes had only started a short time ago but the women were quick learners.

He added: “You can teach anyone anything, if they want to learn.”

One of his pupils told us: “My husband has a whole cupboard full of tools and never uses them. It seemed such a waste.”

As if this were not sufficient proof that times were changing, we sent a reporter and photographer off to the Vickers engineering plant in South Marston to witness the modern miracle of computer-controlled manufacturing.

“The most up-to-date machines, or machining centres,” we said, “are completely tape-controlled and can drill several holes in the six sides of a steel block in one operation lasting about ten minutes.

“Near the machines is a kind of drill bank, so the right ones for a particular operation can be selected in a hurry. The appropriate series of drills can be fitted into a revolving drum on top of the machine, and the machine itself points the right one at the right place.

“Beside the machine is a box covered with knobs and flashing lights, which change their sequence with the movements of the machine. One of any number of preset tapes can be run through the box, depending on the operation.”

A manager said: “It may take 100 hours to preset the machine, and the job the machine’s programmes for may take only ten minutes, but at least it’s programmes for good.”

The Adver, like most newspapers that week, was preoccupied with high technology because the first crewed Apollo mission, Apollo 7, saw astronauts Walter Schirra, Walter Cunningham and Don Eisele orbiting the planet. They were testing some of the systems which would be used in the first moon landing the following July.

We ran daily features about the mission and the space programme in general throughout the week, complete with grainy illustrations of current and planned craft.

One showed a winged interplanetary rocket refuelling in earth orbit before heading for Mars or Venus.

The story beneath was headlined - rather optimistically, as things turned out - The Moon is Just a Stepping Stone.

Its confident predictions included: “...if the problem of extended weightlessness is solved, man, according to scientists, could have a permanent station on Mars by 1995. “Stations might also be established on the two tiny Martian moons, Deimos and Phobos.”