Prince Charles has paid tribute to the generations of workers at one of Belfast’s world renowned shipyards, as he recreated an iconic image of his father standing beneath the towering cranes at Harland and Wolff.

The Prince of Wales joked how he was “old enough to remember the days when there were an awful lot of people working here”, but said he was buoyed by the new opportunities for the younger apprentices coming through.

The future king began a two day trip to Northern Ireland yesterday where, together with wife Camilla, they were told about the rich and varied history of Belfast, from manufacturing to music and community programmes.

On a visit to the shipyard, Charles commented on the size of the towering yellow cranes which famously dominate the Belfast skyline, where his father Prince Philip was photographed in the same spot during a royal visit in July 1977 as part of the Silver Jubilee tour.

Phillip pictured beneath the iconic cranes at Harland and Wolff during a visit to the Belfast shipyard as part of the Silver Jubilee tour in July 1977
Philip pictured beneath the iconic cranes at Harland and Wolff during a visit to the Belfast shipyard as part of the Silver Jubilee tour in July 1977
The Prince of Wales recreated the famous image of his father, the late Prince Philip, during his trip
The Prince of Wales recreated the famous image during his trip 44 years later

In all, the Duke of Edinburgh visited Ireland nearly 60 times - more than twice as often as the Queen.

After meeting some of the third and fourth generation Harland and Wolff workers, Charles said: "I'm old enough to remember the days when there were an awful lot of people working here, so it's been such a pleasure to talk to those of you who have been working here for 40 or 45 years, and the fact that it's always been such an amazing family company, so many of you have followed your grandfathers and fathers, uncles and so on.

The Titanic being built at Harland and Wolff's shipyard, Belfast
The Titanic being built at Harland and Wolff's shipyard, Belfast
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip passed away in April, aged 99

"I'm so pleased to hear that there is all sorts of potential new activity here and new fabrication opportunities, that could be really encouraging, and I hope you could encourage a lot more of the young to become apprentices and understand the importance of manufacturing, and to also understand how this country has led the way in so many of these areas.

"We owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude for your skills and ingenuity, which are so remarkable.

“Well done all of you and thank you for all the hard work you put in."

The heir unveiled a plaque for the 160th anniversary of the company and was presented with a photograph of his father visiting the shipyard in 1977.

The prince was given a photograph of his father visiting the shipyard in 1977
The prince was given a photograph of his father visiting the shipyard in 1977

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall heard about Belfast's ambition to become a Unesco City of Music and was introduced to the women behind the bid.

Wearing an emerald green Rifle's coat dress and matching face mask, designed by Fiona Claire, Camilla, 72, also discussed issues around domestic violence with the women which she has made one of her main campaigns in recent years.

Earlier in the day, Charles hailed the "inspiring" efforts of youth workers to bring about reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

In the second engagement of their visit, the couple met with a number of youth workers at the headquarters of the Education Authority in Belfast city centre.

The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Sussex, Vice Admiral Tim Lawrence attending the funeral of HRH Prince Philip
Charles with his son Harry at his father's funeral

Charles and Camilla heard reflections from young people living in deprived areas on how youth workers had impacted their lives.

Charles, 72, said: "I cannot tell you how really inspiring it has been to hear of the tireless work being carried out by youth workers on all sides of the community, and I just wanted to take this opportunity, if I may, to pay special tribute to your dedication and commitment to the cause of peaceful co-existence.

"We must never underestimate the risk, and of course the cost, of holding to peaceful ways, and how much determination and courage is necessary.

He added: "Whenever I visit I never cease to be profoundly moved by the work that is being done to heal the pain of the past, to bring understanding and reconciliation in the present and to build hope for the future.

"All who love this very special part of the world can only wish you renewed strength of spirit and resolve as you take forward this work of such vital importance to these islands."

Charles and Camilla will finish their trip tomorrow, visiting a number of community schemes in the region.