Queen Elizabeth II has enduring links to Scotland’s airports, bridges, railways and ships – Alastair Dalton
While the opening of the Queensferry Crossing and Borders Railway may immediately spring to mind, the Queen has also launched ships, inaugurated airport terminals, opened canals and marked the completion of a major overhaul of Scotland’s only underground railway.
Doing the honours for the new motorway bridge over the Forth in 2017 was no surprise, considering its name and the fact the Queen had opened the adjacent Forth Road Bridge exactly 53 years earlier.
But with the older bridge having an original design-life of some 120 years, I bet she didn’t expect to be back for a repeat of 1964.
However, I hadn’t realised the tradition of opening bridges over the estuary on September 4, stretching back to the Queen’s great grandfather, Edward VII, for the Forth Bridge while Prince of Wales in 1890. The Queen also opened the gracefully-curving Kylesku Bridge in Sutherland in 1984.
Her re-opening of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank railway on September 9, 2015, after a gap of 46 years had an added significance, being the day she became Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
She told Nicola Sturgeon: “Many, including you First Minister, have… kindly noted another significance attaching to today, although it is not one to which I have ever aspired.”
The monarch was also busy launching ships, perhaps most significantly her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia, at John Brown’s in Clydebank in 1953 – now open in Leith.
The Royal family’s holidays in the ship included cruising the Western Isles, enabling them to enjoy the seclusion of landing on uninhabited islands such as Mingulay.
She returned to the Clydebank yard in 1967 to launch the Cunard liner QE2.
I’d imagined that naming CalMac ferries would have been another staple for the monarch, but she did that just once, for the Ferguson Marine-built Hebrides in 2000.
It was a further revelation that this was the only time a reigning monarch has christened one of the company’s vessels in its 170-year history.
The Queen also opened a new eastern gateway of the Forth & Clyde Canal as the Queen Elizabeth II Canal in 2017.
In 1979, she inaugurated the Glasgow Subway after a three-year revamp and re-opened a major missing piece of the city’s rail network – the Argyle line between Stobcross and Rutherglen.
The Queen’s final journey from Scotland on Tuesday was from the former RAF Turnhouse on the east side of Edinburgh Airport, where she officially opened the passenger terminal in 1977, 11 years after performing the same ceremony at the then much busier Glasgow Airport.
Reading recollections about such visits, a common theme seems to be paranoia about something going wrong.
Former Glasgow Central area manager Vic Gilchrist recalled his “considerable stress” at noticing the red carpet for the Queen’s arrival at the station in 1990 ended 20m short of where she was expected to alight from her train.
He managed to arrange for the gap to be filled in time, albeit in a different shade of red.
But when such things did go awry, I wonder whether the Queen either didn’t notice or didn’t care – or found the whole thing highly amusing.
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