The heroes who saved the Queen’s 1977 visit to South Shields after storm caused havoc

South Shields’ plans for the 1977 Royal visit were almost left in tatters – by a storm which caused havoc.

Don Munro who helped make sure the Queen's 1977 visit to South Shields was a success.
Don Munro who helped make sure the Queen's 1977 visit to South Shields was a success.

And today, we can pay tribute to the unsung heroes who worked into the night to ensure the Royal day at Gypsies Green was a success.

Our thanks go to Don Munro for the story of a dramatic day.

Don was 20 and working as a junior technician in the architects department of the Town Hall in South Shields in 1977.

The Royal staging which Ron helped to erect. Photo: Freddie Mudditt (Fietscher Fotos)

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Proud council workers had spent ages putting up a stage and adorning it with a stunning Royal blue fabric.

Don thought his work was done and he could move on to his other duties. He was a member of the Caerufa Venture Scouts and was due to be in the parade at Gypsies Green.

But the next morning, with just 24 hours to go to the Queen’s arrival, South Tyneside woke to the aftermath of a storm.

"We were met with the site of a tattered canopy and seats blown everywhere,” said Don. The fabric was ruined and urgent measures were needed.

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Her Majesty the Queen in South Tyneside in 1977. Photo: Freddie Mudditt (Fietscher Fotos)

“We literally raided the council’s building depot,” said Don. “The best thing we could find to replace the fabric was this material that is normally used for damp courses.

"We cobbled stuff together with rolls of sticky tape. We attached wooden batons to the steel work and stapled the fabric to the batons.”

"We were sustained by refreshments and food from Frankie’s Cafe on the beach who stayed open late.”

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The chairs were put back in place and Don remembered: “I was released after midnight and, after a short sleep, I was back at the stadium, in full uniform, around dawn.”

The Royal couple at Gypsies Green with some of the Scouts on parade at the trackside. Photo: Freddie Mudditt (Fietscher Fotos).

But Don’s work wasn’t done. He was ‘given a staple gun and told to help fix the carpeting’ which had been blown everywhere in the storm.

"All was finished in time for the Queen’s arrival when I then took up my place in the honour guard.”

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Don recalled: “As a Queen’s Scout I was chosen to be part of Her Majesty's guard of honour at the dais. She walked past me, sadly not speaking to me, on her way to her seat with Prince Philip. We then stood during the event until it ended and the royal party exited past us. It was a lovely day. However, it was a a very different lead up to the event."

It was a huge and impressive team effort which made sure the Queen had a perfect day, said Don. "The whole team plus many council volunteers worked through the night to remove the torn fabric and replace it.”

Don Munro in his younger days.

The images come to us courtesy of Fietscher Fotos of South Shields which was the name of Freddie Mudditt’s photography studio. Its Facebook group, run by Freddie’s daughter Julia Northam, can be found here at www.facebook.com/groups/809676362435168

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Rare cine shows footage Her Majesty the Queen on visit to South Shields in 1977

Our thanks go to Don for a fantastic piece of South Tyneside history and we want more.

Do you have your own Royal story to share?

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Get in touch and tell us more by emailing [email protected]

Don Munro today.