A ROYAL visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Pembrokeshire’s Valero refinery today, November 8, ended a difficult week for the oil industry in the county.

The Rhoscrowther-based Pembroke Refinery was officially opened 50 years ago in 1964 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

The Royal visit marking the refinery’s 50th year came just days after it was announced a takeover deal at the nearby Murco refinery in Milford Haven had collapsed.

The collapse of that deal will lead to the loss of hundreds of well paid local jobs.

The Duke and Duchess arrived at Valero shortly before midday and were greeted by a huge crowd of cheering Pembrokeshire people as the Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed The Hon Robin Lewis OBE presented local dignitaries, including Valero Vice President Edward Tomp, local MP Simon Hart, AM Edwina Hart, Pembrokeshire county Council Chairman Tom Richards and Pembroke Mayor Aaron Carey.

The Royal couple then mingled and chatted with the crowd before their tour of Valero.

One of the many waiting in their hundreds was 10-year-old Pembroke Dock Community School pupil Sophie James, who presented The Duchess with a bunch of flowers on behalf of all the pupils.

Sophie said: “It was amazing; it’s the first time I‘ve met a royal person.”

The Duke and Duchess then viewed a display chronicling the 50 year history of the refinery before  meeting Valero apprentices in the main lecture theatre.

Three of the first year apprentices they met were Daniel Ince from Cosheston, Scott Dedoncker from Tenby, and Joshua Beer from Broadhaven.

Daniel described meeting the couple as “a great opportunity,” echoed by Joshua who described it as “a privilege,” while Scott said: “They were really nice.”

After a visit to Valero’s control room, they met representatives from community organisations supported by the refinery in its Fire Room. 

 Speaking during the visit, Pembrokeshire South and Carmarthen West MP Simon Hart said: “It’s fantastic to see the royal couple here today; it’s a fantastic endorsement for Pembrokeshire. In this week of all weeks it’s a huge endorsement for Valero, and the energy industry in the county.”

His views were echoed by Pembrokeshire County Council Chairman Tom Richards, who said: “It’s a vote of confidence for Valero; after 50 years of the refinery to come down and celebrate in such an event is wonderful.

“It’s a mark of confidence, and let’s hope we can build on that confidence; we all recognise the economic contribution Valero makes to the county, and the support it gives to the county.”

Pembroke mayor Aaron Carey stressed the royal visit was not just about the assembled dignitaries: “It’s fantastic for the kids that were out there waiting for them; it’s not for us as such, it’s for people like my son, Joshua, out there in the crowd.

“It’s nice to have a visit from people so down to earth. It sends out a message that the big companies down here are supported; the industry has raised whole families in our communities.”

Their Royal Highnesses then unveiled a bilingual plaque and a painting by local artist Beth Robinson celebrating 50 years of the refinery.

In another echo of the past, the Duke and Duchess were presented a toy model of a refinery lorry, mirroring one given to HM Queen Mother in 1964 as a gift for a young Prince Andrew.

“It’s a new one for Prince George, although we secretly believe the duke may play with it more,” joked MrTomp.

The royal couple later attended the Rugby Union International match between Wales and Australia at the Millennium Stadium.