WHEN her Golden Jubilee tour of 2002 brought the Queen back to the North-East, she reminisced about her first visit in 1954, which featured seven stops in one day as she whistled from Whitley Bay to Sunderland.

"The pace of this visit has been a little less frenetic, but our welcome has been as warm as ever,” she said, during lunch at the Baltic Centre in Gateshead.

Extremely warm: in Newcastle she caught a glimpse of a streaker while in Darlington she nearly came face to face with a thief.

There had been doubts that the jubilee, celebrating her 50 years on the throne, would capture the public imagination. The North-East leg came just three weeks after the funeral of the Queen Mother, and the huge crowds proved the doubters wrong – in Darlington alone, 10,000 people, more than 10 per cent of the population, turned out to greet her.

The visit began in Sunderland where Her Majesty opened the Metro link into Newcastle before travelling on the first train.

On Tyneside, an estimated 30,000 people lined both banks of the river to watch as the Queen pressed a button and lowered the elliptical Millennium Bridge into place. Then, followed by schoolchildren, she walked across to the Baltic Centre where she gave the speech looking back on her first visit.

"Over those 50 years, there have been enormous changes here,” she said. “My mother, who had close family ties with the region, always spoke highly of the qualities of adaptability of the people of Northumbria.

"Today, I see tangible signs of the determination of all those within this region to create a new future, having shown a resilience to sustain each other during the period of change.

"From Sunderland to Hartlepool and the Tees Valley, the urban landscape has changed, but this has all been with a view to the future.

"The Baltic was a disused warehouse in the 1950s which you have had the vision to turn into a great modern art gallery.”

After lunch, the Queen and Prince Philip were driven into Newcastle only for their journey to be disrupted by a streaker.

"The duke had a good laugh when he got out of the car,” said Newcastle City Council leader, Tony Flynn. “They were amused. I think they took it in good heart." The streaker, though, was charged with outraging public decency.

The visit to St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral was truly historic. The Queen unveiled a statue of Cardinal Basil Hume, the first time since the 16th Century that a reigning monarch had paid such a tribute to a Catholic leader.

Her Majesty then boarded the royal train which took her down to an insalubrious, but highly secret, siding near Darlington’s North Road station where the train was guarded by protection officers armed with sub-machine guns. The officers were greatly concerned to see a package thrown over the wall near the train. Fearing a bomb, they inspected it and it turned out to be a harmless CCTV camera stolen from nearby B&Q. An hour later, the petty thief returned to collect his booty and, completely unaware of the presence of the royal train, was most surprised to be arrested by the guards toting machine guns.

The following day, the Golden Jubilee tour began at 10am at Seaham station on the east coast. The Queen’s first stop was the Easington memorial Garden dedicated to the 83 men who had died in the 1951 disaster. She met three of those who had attempted to rescue them, one of whom, George Ottowell, 78, presented her with a bronze statuette of a mine rescue worker.

He said: "She said she would find somewhere for it. I've got mine on my mantelpiece but I don't know whether she'll find a place for hers on the mantelpiece in the palace."

From Easington she went to Blackhall Rocks to see a Turning of the Tide exhibition about the coastal reclamation project, then it was into Durham Castle for lunch with university chancellor, Sir Peter Ustinov. They had a savoury tartlet filled with lobster and smoked salmon for starter, followed by butterfly of chicken, potatoes and asparagus, with an apricot mousse to finish.

In the Market Place an estimated 15,000 people – which surprised officials by its size – had waited in light drizzle for a royal walkabout, then Her Majesty walked over to the £30m Millennium City where she officially opened the Gala Theatre. In the Clayport Library she joined a live video conference link with pupils at the Murton Jubilee Primary School, which had opened in 1977, the year of her Silver Jubilee year.

Twenty years ago, Zoom hadn't been invented and the video conference was cutting-edge technology – when it worked. Headteacher Tom Balmer said: "For some reason, the sound link went down, but the children didn't mind. We had practised our cheer and the children waved to the Queen, who waved back."

Her day ended in Darlington where, despite the weather, she was greeted by another large crowd, with people climbing lampposts and telephone boxes to gain vantage points, and hanging out of upper floor windows of properties that ringed the Market Place.

Police officers lifted the smallest children over security barriers so they could get a better view and hand over their flowers. There were so many floral offerings that two members of the Heighington Baden Powell Scouts helped to carry them to the royal cars.

Scout Jennifer Kirkly, 13, helped the Queen to unveil a commemorative plaque in the market square to mark the visit. Her Majesty watched a routine by young dancers then pupils from each of the town’s primary schools released gold and purple jubilee balloons into the air.

Among the crowd was children’s entertainer Brian Llewellyn, 48, who had met the Queen in 1960 when she had visited his family home in Newton Aycliffe, and Bunty Atkinson, 72, who had seen the Queen on her previous visit to Darlington 35 years earlier. Bunty said: "She looked marvellous. The atmosphere today is wonderful and reminiscent of 1967."

The palace later issued a statement thanking the people of the North-East and noting that these were the biggest crowds of the tour so far.

Valerie Steel, 46, of Darlington, had been in the Market Place. She said: "I have managed to see just the top of her hat but it was worth coming.

"The Queen's had a difficult year, with the loss of her mother, and I think the amount of people here today show that they want to wish her well.

"I think she's more popular than ever."