Duncan Mackay
Philip BarkerThe London 2012 Torch Relay ignited Olympic fever in the United Kingdom and for the first time the flame visited Scotland. Now an even longer relay, lasting 288 days, will next Wednesday (October 9) bring a greeting from the Queen from Buckingham Palace to Glasgow, host city for the 2014 Commonwealth Games via 71 countries across the world.

When the first "British Empire Games" were held in the Canadian city of Hamilton in 1930, Canadian Prime Minister Richard Bennett read words of King George V to the crowd. Ever since, the Royal message has been a part of the Opening Ceremony.

The first Games of the Queen's reign were held in Vancouver in 1954. She was represented by Prince Philip on that occasion, but the Queen intended to be there in person for the 1958 Games in Cardiff.

The Welsh were determined to put on a show. In 1956, they had celebrated the centenary of the composition of their national anthem "Land of My Fathers". Welsh Athletics official and schoolteacher Bernard Baldwin organised a ten mile "Lawr y Cwm" (Mountain to Valley) race. One runner, 1948 Olympic marathon silver medallist Tom Richards, carried a Baton containing a goodwill message from the people of Mountain Ash to Pontypridd.

Sam Ferris, another British Olympic marathon medallist was there to greet the runners in Pontypridd.

"I believe it is Baldwin's ambition to persuade Cardiff Corporation to further the cause of road running by organising another Lawr y Cwm as a finale to the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games," he said.

That didn't happen but Baldwin's efforts may well have been part of the inspiration for the first Queen's Message Relay in 1958. It was a very modest affair by modern standards, all completed in less than a week.

The Baton was designed by soldier turned Cardiff jeweller Colonel Roy Crouch and featured the Welsh dragon in bold relief, the daffodil and leek. Silversmiths Messrs Turner and Simpson of Birmingham manufactured the batons.

The man put in charge of the logistics of the event was Commander Bill Collins, a retired Royal Navy officer, who had also organised the London 1948 Olympic Torch relay.

Sir Roger Bannister is flanked by Chris Chataway and Peter Driver at the start of the Queen's Baton Relay for the 1958 Commonwealth Games in CardiffSir Roger Bannister is flanked by Chris Chataway and Peter Driver at the start of the Queen's Baton Relay for the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff

Prince Philip met the first three runners at Buckingham Palace. The first bearer was Dr Roger Bannister, the first sub-four minute mile runner in history winner of the "Miracle Mile " at the 1954 Games in Vancouver. Two other champions from those Games, Chris Chataway, winner of the three miles in Vancouver, and Peter Driver, the six miles champion, provided an escort.

In the courtyard, an equerry handed the Baton to Collins before the trio departed through the Palace Gates.

Sir Roger ran to Kensington Gardens. Canadian High Commissioner George Drew and Welsh Minister Henry Brooke were waiting to greet him. The two men represented the host nations of the immediate past and present Games.

Athletic clubs and schools were asked to provide runners. Seniors ran for two miles and juniors half that distance, accompanied at all times by the support vehicle, a Rolls Royce.

The Relay headed to North Wales and crossed the border at Chirk shortly after dawn. Rowing was part of the Games programme in 1958 and held in North Wales. Competitors at Lake Padarn took a break from training to watch the Baton pass. Twins Irfon and Elfyn Roberts, pupils at Caernarvon Grammar School and 14-year-old schoolboy David Pell from Friars School in Bangor were among the youngest of the 664 runners.

Runners from the Mountain Rescue service helped carry the Baton at Llanberis.

Over the next three days it headed South and along the coast to Cardiff. The message was then switched to a special Ceremonial Baton and carried into Cardiff Arms Park by Welsh sprinter and Rugby Union international Ken Jones.The Queen's words spoke of "welcome proof of the increasing value which is being placed today of physical strength and skill as an essential factor in the development of the whole man.I hope that many lasting friendships will grow.

Welsh sprinter Ken Jones hands the Queen's Baton to Prince Philip at the Opening Ceremony of Cardiff 1958Welsh sprinter Ken Jones hands the Queen's Baton to Prince Philip at the Opening Ceremony of Cardiff 1958

The message signed off: "I am greatly looking forward with being with you at the end of next week."

In fact, the Queen was too unwell to attend the Closing Ceremony so a recorded message relayed by loudspeaker announced Charles would become Prince of Wales.

By the time Charles was invested in 1969, the Queen had still not attended a Commonwealth Games, but the following year they were to be held in Scotland for the first time. Edinburgh was host city and Royal College of art student Hector Miller designed a Baton which featured the Games symbol and the city coat of arms.

For the first and only time, the Baton began its journey outside the UK. The Queen was visiting Canada. She handed over her message at Petitot Park at Yellowknife in the North-Western Territories.

"What message could the Queen have in mind that requires such a circuitous route for its conveyance? " asked Auberon Waugh in The Times."One cannot help feeling that it had better be something pretty meaty to justify the effort."

Commander Collins, in Canada to supervise the handover, fired off a rebuke. "Those who give their services in Canada and Scotland in organising this small traditional contribution to the Games are only too glad to do something for others in the world of sport without thought of reward for themselves," he wrote. "The young people of Scotland who will be carrying the message feel it an honour to do so."

First Nation ethnic groups, including those from Inuvik took part in the Handover Ceremony. Abby Hoffman, Canada's 1966 gold medallist over 880 yards, received the Baton from the Queen. It was flown to Scotland where 21-year-old John Ferguson of Ayr Seaforth Harriers was the first of 1,000 runners on Scottish soil. "Thus many distant places from Edinburgh would feel they were playing some part in Scotland's Games," said organisers.

When it passed through Glasgow it fell to teenager Doreen Arthur to present the baton at Glasgow City Chambers.

Finally it arrived in Edinburgh and it was fitting that this long distance journey should be completed by a marathon runner, 1966 gold medallist Jim Alder who handed the Baton to Prince Philip to read the message. The Queen arrived later in the week to close the Games.

The Queen took part in the Closing Ceremony at Edinburgh in 1970, the first occasion that Scotland hosted the Commonwealth GamesThe Queen took part in the Closing Ceremony at Edinburgh in 1970, the first occasion that Scotland hosted the Commonwealth Games

In 1986 the Games returned to Edinburgh. The Relay began at Buckingham Palace. The Baton designed by Edinburgh jeweller Michael Laing, was handed to Steve Cram accompanied by champion hurdlers, Australia's Debbie Flintoff and England's David Hemery.

The Baton travelled through England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man before reaching Coldstream, where Alder, the final runner in 1970, now carried it across the border. It was transported across Scotland by runners and cyclists and arrived in Edinburgh for the Opening Ceremony. In contrast to 1970, organisers chose a sprinter this time. Allan Wells ran in, escorted by six gold medallists from the 1970 Games.

Many countries boycotted in 1986 over Britain's stance on sporting contact with South Africa, so the Queen's words, read by the Duke of Edinburgh seem particularly poignant. "The Games have a well deserved reputation for their friendliness and good sportsmanship," he told the crowd at Meadowbank Stadium.

The Queen will open Glasgow 2014. When this happens, her speech is officially styled an "address" not a "message". The first time she opened the Games was at Edmonton in 1978. Kenyan runner Ben Jipcho received a baton made from a Narwhal tusk by Inuit artist Nick Sikkuark outside Buckingham Palace. It was flown to Canada where surviving medallists from 1930 offered a welcome in Hamilton Ontario.

It visited all the Provinces before Diane Jones-Konihowski, soon to win pentathlon gold, handed it back to the Queen. "In recent years, as your President, Prince Philip has performed the Opening Ceremony and read my message," she told the assembled crowd. "Today the roles are reversed and for the first time I am able to give you my message in person."

The Queen also opened the 1994 Games in Victoria, British Columbia. It was carried on traditional first nation canoes before 1994 Olympic biathlon champion Myriam Bedard entered the Centennial Stadium on dry-land skis in an unusual finale.

Unlike the Olympic Flame, there is no danger of the baton "going out", but in 1974 it did go missing from an office before the Relay to Christchurch New Zealand had even begun. It was found just in time.

Organisers of the 1990 Games in Auckland were inventive. The Baton was divided and visited New Zealand's North and South Islands. In 1998, after a symbolic journey to all the continents, It arrived in Kuala Lumpur,and the final journey to the Stadium began by elephant .

Seb Coe was the first runner to have his pulse rate tracked by the 2002 baton which passed through more Commonwealth countries than ever before. Crowds swarmed to Manchester to see football stars past and present from City and United take part, including brothers Phil and Gary Neville. Sister Tracey was part of England's netball team.

David Beckham hands the Queen's Baton to six-year-old Kirsty Howard at the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in ManchesterDavid Beckham hands the Queen's Baton to six-year-old Kirsty Howard at the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester

The most spectacular moment came when acrobat Lindsey Butcher descended into the City of Manchester Stadium by balloon baton in hand. The Queen, celebrating her own Golden Jubilee, then greeted David Beckham and six-year-old Kirsty Howard who presented the "address".

Even Her Majesty described the 2006 baton as "Hi Tech". Her Melbourne address visited all 71 Commonwealth nations and beamed back sound and pictures throughout .For the Queen it was "a symbol of the unity and diversity of our commonwealth of nations".

Four years ago, a London taxi ride gave the Baton an unusual start on its 340 day journey to Delhi. It visited the source of the Nile and was even the star attraction at a wedding in St Vincent. The Baton changed colour to reflect the flag of each nation it visited.

Now a journey of 190,000 kilometres to Celtic Park in Glasgow lies ahead of the 2014 Baton, the design inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The contents are illuminated although the actual words of the Queen's address cannot be seen.

Born in Hackney, a stone's throw from the 2012 Olympic Stadium, Philip Barker has worked as a television journalist for 25 years. He began his career with Trans World Sport, then as a reporter for Sky Sports News and the ITV breakfast programme. A regular Olympic pundit on BBC Radio, Sky News and TalkSPORT, he is associate editor of the Journal of Olympic History, has lectured at the National Olympic Academy and contributed extensively to Team GB publications.