Drama as Prince Charles visits in 1978
ALOT of water has gone under the bridge...
It was a time before Diana. Before Camilla. Before William ... and Kate. Before Harry ... and Meghan.
It was a time when the Queen’s eldest son was simply heir to the throne, and a 29-year-old single man to boot.
Back on this day 40 years ago, Prince Charles was on Tyneside for what should have been just another in a evergrowing round of official Royal engagements.
The dramatic headline in that night’s Chronicle told a different story.
‘Bottle attack on the Prince’ were the words splashed across our front page on Thursday, June 1, 1978.
“A man hurled a bottle at Prince Charles today as he travelled in his limousine in Newcastle,” our report said.
“The bottle shattered the off-side window of the Rolls, inches from the Prince’s head.
“The Prince was not hurt. The Rolls stopped momentarily and then sped on as policemen pounced on the attacker.”
Charles was on Tyneside 40 years ago to officially open Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, and then unveil the new Associated Dairies plant in Benton, before setting off for other engagements in Sunderland and County Durham in the afternoon.
The day had started pleasantly enough at Newcastle Central Station where crowds waited for over two hours for the Prince’s morning arrival on the Royal train.
A relaxed Charles asked a Mrs Guss, of Jesmond: “Are you waiting for a train?” To which she replied: “No, I’m waiting to see you.”
The drama unfolded later, moments after the Prince told patients at the Freeman Hospital: “You’re in good hands here. The nurses are Geordies.”
The bottle-throwing incident took place on Freeman Road where hundreds, many waving flags, were waiting.
Pensioner Mrs Drake told the
Chronicle: “A man walked past. He was rather scruffy - a bit like a tramp. I heard him say to a lady who was waving at the car that he was going to throw a bottle.
“Just seconds later it happened and there was a loud crash. There seemed to be about 12 policemen upon him straight away and they pinned him down in the middle of the road.”
The bottle-thrower who was later charged over the incident also felt the wrath of housewife Mrs Dawson who helped pin down the attacker.
Mrs Dawson, who had been visiting her mother at hospital, said: “The man walked into the middle of the road and threw the bottle at Prince Charles.
“I was really annoyed and I just made a beeline for him when he started to run away. “I kept hold of his beard until the police told me to leave go.” Events ran smoothly after that with the Chronicle describing Charles as looking “cool and calm as he met officials at Associated Dairies,” while attempts were made to repair the 1960 Rolls Royce. He even made fun of the incident, joking later at Sunderland’s Crowtree Leisure Centre to a receptionist behind a glass partition: “What is this for - to stop people throwing things at you?” Four decades on, Prince Charles is still going strong, of course, as is the renowned Freeman Hospital, while Associated Dairies closed in the mid-2000, and Crowtree Leisure Centre was demolished in 2014.
There was a loud crash. There seemed to be about 12 policemen upon him straight away Mrs Drake, Newcastle Chronicle, May 31, 1978
Prince Charles waves from his car on an official visit to the North East, May 31, 1978
Prince Charles visits Associated Dairies, Benton, May 31, 1978
The bottle attacker is pinned to the ground, May 31, 1978 Police pounce on an attacker who threw a bottle at Prince Charles’ car in Newcastle, May 31, 1978 Prince Charles’ visit to Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, May 31, 1978 BOTTLE ATTACK 40 YEARS AGO