The first trip to Wigan on April 24, 1986 was a fleeting one. Princess Diana and Prince Charles dropped in at North Western railway station en route from Blackburn and Burnley where they had just opened the Rosegrove Station.
They were greeted at the station by Sir William Downward, the then Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, and while hundreds of onlookers gathered to see them, one of the few local folk to grab a word with the princess during the five minute stop-off was 15-year-old trainspotter Stephen Hooton from Orrel.
The waiting crowds in Burnley took her to their hearts. The Royal walk-about later took Charles to the Weavers’ Triangle and Queen Street Mill, both of keen interest to the Prince.
Their brief visit was during Princess Diana’s ‘apprenticeship’; she wore a functional close-fitting, heather-coloured suit with a fish-tailed jacket and a pill-box hat.
They then went on to a business enterprise festival in recession-hit Skelmersdale. It was also a proud day for George Fairclough who drove the royals into his home town on the train, and also for the Ashton-in-Makerfield catering firm Shows and Parties which displayed its wares at the Skelmersdale exhibition.
Sandy Cunningham, above, at the West Lancashire means Business Exhibition in Skelmersdale was lucky enough to speak to both Prince Charles and Princess Diana about her work. The Princess was interested in how she made her figurines. After she had explained the process to her she gave her the one she is seen holding in the photo above and below.
It belonged to her niece Tanya but Sandy explained she didn’t mind and so she made her another one to replace it. Sandy’s figurines can be seen here: http://sandie_ceramics.homestead.com/Figurines.html
The visit completed a royal hat-trick for the borough. Princess Anne had just been to Ashton, Atherton and Tyldesley and this had been quickly followed by the Queen and Prince Philip’s arrival in Wigan to open the Pier complex.