PRINCE CHARLES paid tribute to the “extraordinary reserves of resilience” of the people of Redcar on a visit to the town, five months after 2,000 steelworkers lost their jobs.
The Prince met former workers from the SSI steelworks, which turned off its coke ovens and blast furnace in October, after the owners failed to sell the stricken plant.
He also met members of the SSI Task Force, which was set up in the wake of the closure of the 98-year-old steelworks, widely reported in the Yorkshire Post.
During his tour of the Redcar & Cleveland Leisure and Community Heart, the Prince met members of the Industrial Cadets initiative, a work experience programme inspired by a visit he made to Redcar in 2010.
Unveiling a plaque at the centre, he said despite the “horrors” the local workforce had suffered, he thought there were still great opportunities for the area.
He said: “I wasn’t really expecting to say anything, but for me it’s the greatest possible pleasure to come back to this part of the world where I know you have been through so many difficult times.
“I remember coming here six years ago during another difficult time but, if I may say so, despite the horrors you have faced, somehow, in this remarkable part of the world, you have these extraordinary reserves of resilience and, above all, the most wonderful sense of humour. How you keep it I don’t know, it’s very infectious and very special.”
He said he remembered an aunt who used to tell him to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”, and with the region’s history in steel-making they had been at the forefront of the country’s industrial manufacturing success.
“I feel very strongly that there seems to be huge opportunities for this area to be a centre of excellence in engineering and manufacturing, as that’s what made this country so great,” he said.
“What I can tell you is I have nothing but the greatest admiration for the way you can with your skills apply such ingenuity and determination and, indeed, humour in what you do.”
Amanda Skelton, chief executive of Redcar and Cleveland Council, sat with the Prince at a meeting of the task force and said his visit was a real morale boost.
“It’s really important for us that we continue to publicise this crisis that we have been going through because we don’t want people to forget about us,” she said.
He also spent time speaking to a group of former steelworkers who lost their jobs after the plant closed.
Peter Rodgers, who was a deputy supervisor at the coke ovens, said his visit would hopefully raise awareness of the thousands of jobs that had been lost.
“I worked there for over 20 years and was a massive part of my life taken away,” he said.
“I’m not too sure what difference his visit will make but it’s good that he’s come.”
During his visit, which included a trip to automotive parts manufacturer ElringKlinger UK and a reception for charity Business in the Community, Prince Charles met one of his biggest fans - six-year-old Benjamin Cooper.
The youngster had studied the Royal Family at school and ever since has worn a suit to be just like Charles, having asked for it for his birthday. Shaking Ben’s hand, who was accompanied by his parents, Elaine and Ian, and sister Eve, the Prince laughed as they explained their son’s admiration for him.