THE Mission to Seafarers in South Shields received a royal seal of approval after Princess Anne heaped praise on its work.
The Princess Royal called into the Mill Dam charity in her capacity as its patron.
It was her first time back at the centre for two decades after she opened its Flying Angel Social Centre back in 1984.
And the Queen’s only daughter praised staff and volunteers who provide vital support for visiting seafarers from across the globe.
Unveiling a plaque in the Mission’s chapel, she said: “The mission is really important as it makes such a difference at critical moments in seafarers’ lives.
“I offer my congratulations for the work you do.”
The visit also offered a huge boost to both volunteers, local clergy and members of the borough’s maritime community. The Rt Reverend Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, said: “Her visit has given the Mission a royal seal of approval and she acknowledged the work it does both today and in the past. She was aware also of the immense support the Mission had offered to the Filipino crew of the Donald Duckling over Christmas.”
Great North Run competitor and Mission fundraiser Stewart Temple, 84, enjoyed a good chat with Her Royal Highness.
He said: “She was aware of my running and said it must take a lot of hard work. I told her it was easier than riding a horse and she had a laugh.”
John Clayburn, 88, an Arctic Convoy veteran and a member of the now disbanded Russian Convoy Club, which met at the Mission, added: “She congratulated me on being awarded the Arctic Star last year.”
But her visit was tinged with sadness for Mr Clayburn, from Fulwell, Sunderland, following the recent death of fellow Arctic Convoy veteran Bob Robertson, of Mortimer Road, South Shields. “It should have been Bob here talking to the princess today,” he added.
Mission committee member Sandford Goudie, of Cleadon Village, thanked the princess for her support when the future of the Mission was under threat in 2010, as a result of proposed funding cuts at the time.
He said: “It was the first time I have met her and I was very impressed. “She knew about the problems that the Mission had at that time.”
Equally impressed was Lindsey Whiterod, principal at South Tyneside College, who said: “She asked about South Shields Marine School and knew how famous it is across the world.”
Earlier Princess Anne unveiled a plaque to officially open the refurbished Holborn House flats complex, located close by the Mill Dam.
While at the Isos Housing complex, she enjoyed a long overdue get-together with one resident in particular.
Geoffrey Bullock, 64, lives in the complex with his partner Diane Pate, and the couple have a fantastic river view from their front windows.
Mr Bullock is a former shipyard worker, who worked as a painting contractor on ships at all the major yards along the Tyne.
He remembers working on the giant Esso Northumbria oil tanker, built in Wallsend in the late 1960s.
The ship was launched by the Princess Royal in May 1969 – her first ever ship launch, at the age of 18, and now more than 40 years later she was back on the river for a meeting with Mr Bullock.