A LARGS couple who ran the local company of the Boys' Brigade say meeting the Queen was 'the highlight' of their 30 years at the helm.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived by helicopter for a flying visit to Inverclyde Sports Centre on its 50th anniversary in 2008 after officially opening it in 1958.

Bridie and Jim Lamont were given an audience with the monarch alongside youngsters Neil Menzies, Steven Bonn and piper Alistair Kent.

Jim, 73, of Glenacre Drive, shared his memories of the monarch as the town mourned her loss this week.

He said: "It was fantastic to meet her and I remember how boys were absolutely beside themselves with excitement.

"The Queen asked us how long we had been involved with the Boys's Brigade and she seemed quite impressed by all of our service. I suppose she knew about that better than anyone.

"We knew she was going to go past us but we didn't realise she would stop and spend some time talking with us.

"Young Alistair Kent the piper was quite nervous about how he had played, but the Duke came up after the Queen and told him not to worry as he had done just fine!"

Bridie, 72, who was first officer in charge of the Anchors and BBs, added: "It was the highlight of our time with the Boys' Brigade, we were on cloud nine for days afterwards. People couldn't believe it and kept asking me what we had chatted about.

"She was so down to earth and seemed to have a genuine interest in the town and our work. She was a lovely lady.

"They did a tour of the place and we made sure at every door there was brigade member to open it for them."

As the crown passes to King Charles III, Jim said: "Elizabeth was thrown into the role in her mid-twenties and she said she would serve the country until she died, and she did that, right to the very end.

"And the fact that she made a point of coming back to Largs 50 years later was very special indeed.

"She leaves an incredible legacy, not just here but around the UK and the world."

John Kent, former principal of Inverclyde Sports Centre, says the Queen put everyone at ease as soon as she arrived with her charm and genial manner.

The 66-year-old said: "Her father King George VI's trust helped fund the centre in Largs so it was close to her heart.

"Lord Inverclyde was the chairman of the Scottish Sports Council and saw an opportunity with the former Hills Hotel building in Largs.

"He asked for funding from the trust to help buy the land but unfortunately passed away just as the deeds were signed. In recognition of his work, it was called Inverclyde Sports Centre in his honour.

"A plaque dedicated to King George VI now sits in the grounds on a stone plinth.

"When the Queen came back in 2008, I remember she asked if I thought her father's money had been well spent?

"I replied right away, 'Yes, of course Ma'am!' and I am pleased to say that Inverclyde Sports Centre is still going strong.

"She knew everything about where the funding had come from and was very informed about the area. I remember we walked through the doors and chatted about the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and then met manager Graham Randall who had all his Judo medals with him, then the late Bob Torrance at his school of golf.

"The Queen also met fitness suite manager Duncan Liddell and the Duke took great delight in pressing all the buttons on the equipment and seeing what each one did.

"It was a special day as they still had clear memories of their first trip here 50 years before and were very keen to see how Inverclyde Sports Centre had progressed.

"Her passing is a great loss to the country but I am so glad to have met the Queen. It is very true to say that she was the grandmother of the nation and I shall never forget the visit."

The strong royal link to Inverclyde Sports Centre continued in 2018 when it had a £12 million makeover and was visited by Prince Edward, who is the patron of the British paralympic team.