HE’S perhaps the most famous comedian to have ever lived, the legendary monochrome clown of the silver screen.

Charlie Chaplin caught his first glimpse of his homeland, after 21 years away, from the decks of the liner Queen Elizabeth after the ship’s arrival in Southampton.

The year was 1952 when Charlie, then aged 63 and whitehaired, told the press he was glad to be back and was looking forward to seeing as much of the country as possible.

This was not the only time the comic had visited Southampton. As a teenager Chaplin, fresh from a West End appearance as Billy the Page Boy in the highly successful play Sherlock Holmes, made two trips to local theatres in 1906.

Daily Echo:

The first was in front of audiences at the old Hippodrome that once stood in Ogle Road when he was part of a slap-stick act and then later that same year Charlie returned to Southampton this time on the bill at the former Palace Theatre.

In 1912 he was back in Southampton this time to board the liner, Olympic, sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic and nine years later, at the height of his fame, the same vessel brought him back to the docks where he was given a civic welcome by the then-mayor, Councillor H Blatch.

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With Charlie when he arrived in 1952 were his wife, their four children, Geraldine, 8, six-year-old Michael, Josephine, 3, and 13-month-old Victoria and two nannies.

Reporters pressed the comic actor if he was going to settle in England as his permanent home. Charlie said: “I have not altered my plans.

“I still have interests in America and my children were born in California.’’ His trip might extend to more than six months, said Charlie as he walked from Queen Elizabeth into the Ocean Terminal.

“I want to have a full tour of Britain,’’ Charlie told the Daily Echo at the time.

Civic welcome “I hope to go to Manchester, where I lived for two or three years when I was very young, to the Bronte country in Yorkshire, the south-west of England, including Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, Scotland, and as many as possible of the historical places.’’ The Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth in which Charlie had travelled with his wife and family from New York tied up at the Ocean Terminal in the early hours.

Daily Echo:

Most passengers, including Charlie and his family in suites on A deck, were then asleep. However, he was up early to board the first train which left the dockside for Waterloo at 9am.

Harry Crocker, Charlie’s private secretary, had a busy time trying to muster the family to go through Customs, and Michael was missing throughout the photographing and until the rest of the family were in the terminal. The boy later told a reporter he had been in the ship’s gymnasium.

As the comic entered the coach of the boat train for London workmen on the line shouted: “Good old Charlie!’’ Charlie’s unique talents were recognised when he received a knighthood in 1975, just two years before he died in Switzerland.