A ‘céad míle fáilte’ to the heir of the British throne
Prince Charles and Camilla impress assembled guests with their interest in Cork people
Prince Charles meets school children during a visit to Cork Naval Base. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/PA Wire
Sean O’Callaghan probably never envisaged his ballad extolling all things Cork from harriers to hurlers being used to greet members of the British Royal Family. But that’s exactly what happened when Prince Charles and Camilla were welcomed to Cork City Hall to the sound of The Boys of Fairhill.
Perhaps fortunately, it was the instrumental version performed by the Band of the First Brigade Collins Barracks under the baton of Co Sgt Noel Galvin as otherwise HRH might have had to struggle with a few Corkisms including the chorus “Here’s Up Em All, Says the Boys of Fairhill. ”
Escorted by current Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, past the busts of Cork’s martyred Lord Mayors Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney, into the City Hall built to replace what was burnt down by Auxiliaries in 1920, Prince Charles put the past behind him and proved a popular guest on Leeside.
He and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, mingled with 150 invited guests from various civic groups in Cork. The consensus from almost everyone they met was that they were, well, surprisingly nice, not stuffy and very interested in hearing people’s stories.
Among the first to be introduced to Prince Charles was the founder of Chernobyl Children International, Adi Roche, who congratulated him on his volunteer work and the encouragement that he gives to groups working in the charity sector reliant on volunteerism.
“I thanked him for the encouragement he gives such groups and said it was an opportunity to hear mirror image stories from Ireland of the magnificent work done by countless heroes and heroines in Ireland and that Chernboyl was one of those stories and he said ‘Keep up the good work’,” she said.
Joan Lucey of Vibes and Scribes book and craft shop was also introduced to Prince Charles and presented him with a signed first edition of Robert Gibbings 1945 Lovely is the Lee, and a box of naturally produced Irish wool in recognition of his role as a patron of the British Campaign for Wool.
“He was very pleasant and very interested in hearing about how we are liaising with Irish farmers and using their fleece to produce 100 per cent Irish knitting wool and he said he would love to come back and see how that works,” she said.
The principal of Togher Boys National School, Kieran Kelly, said that he found Prince Charles to be “very down to earth” after they chatted about schools. He told him to enjoy the holidays before going to chat with Church of Ireland chaplin, Rev Daniel Nuzum, at Cork University Hospital.
“I just said ‘Céad Míle Fáilte to Cork’ and we are honoured and thrilled that you are here and he just said ‘Sorry it’s taken me so long to get here’. I just said ‘Well, it’s good that you are here today and thank you for that’,” said Rev Nuzum who also ministers at Marymount Hospice.
Patricia Looney of Cork City Library, Brian McGee of Cork City Archives and Dan Breen of Cork City Museum were among those to meet Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and all spoke of her interest in hearing about their work in the public service.
“I informed her that King Edward VII had dinner in what is now my office in the Cork City Museum when he came to visit the Great Exhibition on August 1st 1903 and she said it was a pity that they couldn’t get to the museum,” said Mr Breen.
Among the others to meet Prince Charles and Camilla at Cork City Hall were The Young Offenders writer and director, Peter Foote, and his wife Hillary Rose who stars in the hit TV series, as well as Irish Olympian Rob Heffernan and chef Rachel Allen from Ballymaloe House.
Following a 72 second silence to mark the first anniversary of the Grenville Tower tragedy in London when 72 people lost their lives, Prince Charles was formally welcomed by the Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald who was introduced by Cork City Chief Executive Ann Doherty.
Later Prince Charles visited the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, a constituent college of the Cork Institute of Technology whose President Barry O’Connor formally welcomed him and introduced him to Rear Admiral Mark Mellet of the Irish Defence Forces.
Prince Charles was given a guided tour of the state-of-the-art facility including its marine simulation room as well as its Sea Survival Training facilities, before meeting members of the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club in the world, which is based in nearby Crosshaven.