IT is Tuesday, November 19, 1968, and commuters on the 9am London-bound flight from Glasgow airport have an eagle’s-eye view of a stately liner as she lies in the fitting-out basin of the John Brown yard in Clydebank. The QE2 is poised to make her first voyage -- the 13 miles to Inchgreen dockyard, Greenock.

On board the Cunarder is Prince Charles, who had celebrated his 20th birthday just the previous week. He had arrived at Brown’s at 8am, having reached Glasgow on the overnight train from London. He was accompanied into the yard by John Rannie, of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. Near the gangway, he went over to a group of workers. “I had called out, ‘Good luck, Charles’, and the prince suddenly stopped opposite me”, said one of them, Thomas Crawford.

Moments later, workers laughed as Mr Rannie handed the prince a pass to get on board the QE2, saying that he would have to show it to the guards at the foot of the gangway. A worker, George Stewart, said to Charles, “Surely you don’t need a pass to get on the ship?”

“I will give it to you and you can come aboard with me”, laughed Charles. “I’ll come with you all right”, replied George.

After a breakfast on board, in the grillroom -- milk and orange juice, sausage, bacon and egg, and coffee (no porridge, thanks) -- Charles went onto the bridge, alongside Captain Bill Warwick, master of the QE2, a bowler-hatted Mr Rannie and Sir Basil Smallpeice, chairman of Cunard.

At 9.06am the liner began to slip her moorings, surrounded by tugs. “Many hardened shipyard workers”, the Evening Times reported, “had tears in their eyes as they watched the ship they have toiled on for more than two years ease gently into the river to be met with her first escort of seagulls”.

The successful voyage was watched by large and enthusiastic crowds on the riverbanks. The build-up of traffic had begun before dawn. Many of the onlookers had driven up from England; one car-load of passengers from Rochdale arrived in the Erskine Hospital grounds at Erskine Ferry at 7.30am.

At 3.10pm, at Greenock, Prince Charles left the QE2 and chatted with officials, and “seemed to blush” at the sight of the crowds awaiting him. “Hey Charlie!”, someone shouted from the upper decks. The Prince looked up and smiled.

In March 1971 Charles was the guest of honour at Murrayfield, where, accompanied by Prime Minister Ted Heath, he shook hands with the Scotland and England rugby teams before a special match marking the centenary of the first international between the two countries; here, Scotland captain Peter Brown introduces him to Scottish players. Scotland had beaten England at England the previous weekend, for the first time since 1938; now, Charles watched the Scots win, by 26 points to six.

Read more: Herald Diary