Prince Charles follows in his father’s footsteps at Belfast shipyard

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Prince Charles follows in the footsteps of his father during a visit at the Harland & Wolff shipyard -  Samir Hussein - Pool/Wire Image
Prince Charles follows in the footsteps of his father during a visit at the Harland & Wolff shipyard - Samir Hussein - Pool/Wire Image

The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the Harland & Wolff shipyard in 1977 came at a time of great political turmoil, with tensions erupting on the streets and widespread violence.

When the Prince of Wales followed in his father’s footsteps in Belfast on Tuesday, he faced potential risks of a rather different kind.

In a sign of the times, health and safety measures meant that as he walked under the yard's towering cranes, unlike his father, Prince Charles was obliged to don a hard hat and hi-vis vest.

The Prince, 72, met workers at the historic shipyard as he embarked on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duke of Edinburgh at Harland and Wolff during a Silver Jubilee visit in August 1977 - Pacemaker
The Duke of Edinburgh at Harland and Wolff during a Silver Jubilee visit in August 1977 - Pacemaker

He earlier paid tribute to the "inspiring" efforts of youth workers to bring about reconciliation in the province.

“We must never underestimate the risk - and of course the cost - of holding to peaceful ways, and how much determination and courage is actually necessary,” he said.

“Whenever I visit this part of the world, I never cease to be profoundly moved by the work that is being done to heal the pain of the past, to bring understanding and reconciliation in the present, and to build hope for the future.”

At the shipyard, the Prince commented on the size of the cranes that famously dominate the skyline as he chatted to employees who represent the third and fourth generations of their families to work there.

Showing an interest in the future of the business, he was shown automatic-welding machinery before unveiling a plaque to mark Harland & Wolff’s 160th anniversary.

Prince - Samir Hussein
Prince - Samir Hussein

The Prince was also presented with a photograph of his late father visiting the shipyard in 1977, during a short tour to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

He said in a brief speech: "I'm old enough to remember the days when there were an awful lot of people working here, so it's been such a pleasure to talk to those of you who have been working here for 40 or 45 years…. it's always been such an amazing family company, so many of you have followed your grandfathers and fathers, uncles and so on.”

He described the new activity and opportunities as “really encouraging” and said he hoped it might inspire more young people to become apprentices and understand the importance of manufacturing.

"We owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude for your skills and ingenuity, which are so remarkable,” he added. “Well done all of you and thank you for all the hard work you put in."

The royal couple had earlier met historians at Belfast City Hall - Samir Hussein
The royal couple had earlier met historians at Belfast City Hall - Samir Hussein

Earlier, both Prince Charles and the Duchess were told about the rich and varied history of Belfast as they arrived in the city.

Welcomed to Belfast City Hall by Lord Mayor Frank McCoubrey, they viewed a mural by local artist John Like, painted for the Festival of Britain in 1950, before viewing a copy of a John Conor painting depicting the State Opening of Stormont in 1921.

While the Prince discussed the centenary of Northern Ireland with local historians, the Duchess heard about Belfast's ambition to become a Unesco City of Music and was introduced to the women's steering group behind the bid.

Camilla, wearing an emerald green Rifle's coat dress and matching face mask designed by Fiona Claire, discussed issues around domestic violence with the women.

The couple also met with a number of youth workers at the headquarters of the Education Authority in Belfast city centre, hearing about how they help young people living in deprived areas.

In a speech, the Prince hailed the "tireless work" being done to bring about reconciliation and paid tribute to their dedication and commitment to peaceful co-existence.

The Duchess later tried her hand at the traditional craft of silversmithing during a visit to the workshop of Cara Murphy in the Co Down village of Hillsborough, causing Mrs Murphy to comment that it could be a new career.

Mrs Murphy is a renowned silversmith who created the Grand National trophy.

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