Mother-in-law gag earns Cork fishmonger a queen’s invite

Market trader asked to palace reception after cracking a joke during royal visit in 2011

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth meets fish monger Pat O’Connell at the English Market in Cork on May 20th, 2011. Photograph: Maxwell’s/Reuters

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth meets fish monger Pat O’Connell at the English Market in Cork on May 20th, 2011. Photograph: Maxwell’s/Reuters

 

A Cork fishmonger whose humour tickled the queen during her visit here has been invited to Buckingham Palace.

English Market trader Pat O’Connell said he “nearly collapsed” when he opened the invite, which arrived by post yesterday.

Asked to attend a reception with the queen on March 25th next, the invite comes less than three years after a visit to Ireland during which the queen and Prince Philip visited the English market.

“It’s all good for Irish food. It says something about how she felt in the English Market in Cork and how relaxed she was,” Mr O’Connell said.

During the queen’s visit, O’Connell cracked a joke about an ugly monkfish which he said was nicknamed “the mother-in-law fish”, prompting the queen to erupt in laughter. The moment drew attention after it was captured by photographer Valerie O’Sullivan.

The fishmonger said the joke had been “a bit of a gamble”. “Oh God, if it went wrong - can you imagine? Because if the Queen didn’t have a sense of humour, if she didn’t see the funny side, that photograph would never have happened,” he said.

Mr O’Connell says he got on “famously” with his own mother-in-law, who passed away a few years ago. “We were very good friends,” he said.

Mr O’Connell said the photograph reflected the queen’s experience of the English Market and Cork. “I was the face that got in the photograph but it could have been any one of us [traders],” he said.

O’Connell’s book The Fishmonger was published last year and a copy was sent to the queen, who described the book as a splendid reminder of her visit to Ireland.

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