Prince and Duchess bask in ‘liquid sunshine’ as God confirms he’s a Kerryman
Windolene, fresh paint and no spelling test – a great day for Kerry
Prince Charles and Camilla walk on Derrynane beach in Co Kerry. Photograph: Niall Carson, Getty Images
Are they nervous? “You know what it’s like,” says Sheahan. “It’s like waiting for the ball to be thrown at the All Ireland final.”
“For the last week we’ve been drowning in Windolene and paint,” says Foley. “Now we can enjoy the view.”
The royals were all over the place on Friday morning, with stops here, at Muckross House (where they met a descendent of Daniel O’Connell) and, for the duchess, a barefoot walk on Derrynane beach (“But she wore her tights,” an appalled female colleague says).
They’re partially retracing the steps of the Prince’s great great great grandmother who first holidayed here in 1861. “She kickstarted tourism in Kerry really,” says Pat Dawson, the chairman of the theatre’s board.
Not everyone is pleased. There was a nationalist protest, one local tells me. “There were two of them,” he says. “One for each side of their banner.”
There are also enthusiasts. One man walks by the entrance with a union jack flat cap, flag and a deckchair.
Others are more casual. “Hi Charlie!” cries one man when he sees the prince.
Some have personal reasons for being here. Inside the theatre, 93-year-old Kathleen O’Shea is wearing two medals, one for service in the second World War. She served in the Army Territorial Service, which was the queen’s unit. “My niece always refers to the queen as ‘my boss’,” O’Shea says. “She said, ‘Why shouldn’t you meet your boss’s son?’”
On the other end of the age scale, 60 children from eight local schools line the path outside. “Our kids had to write a formal letter explaining why they should be picked,” says Patricia Sharpe from CBS.
“One child used a wax seal,” says another teacher, Angela Moloney, who also makes costumes for the theatre (“If anyone splits their trousers, blame me”). When the Prince and Duchess arrive in a motorcade with an entourage of dignitaries, they greet each child warmly.
“I feel like crying,” says Rachel Jordan Banks.
“He was funny,” says Alison McEvoy. “He said, ‘I hope you don’t get much homework’ and when we said we did get too much homework, he said, ‘Oh dear.’”
“The best day ever,” says Megan Diggins. Why? “No spelling test.”
Prince Charles and the Duchess get a private tour of the theatre, which is 50 years old this year, and they watch, among other things, a lovely performance of its very first show, Fadó Fadó. Afterwards, as the Prince is leaving, someone shouts a question about what he thinks of the county.
“Remarkable,” he says. “At last I’ve a chance to see Kerry.”
A short time later, outside Killarney House, well-wishers are gathering. Sharon Caldwell introduces her little white dog, Fluffy Alfred Caldwell, who is wearing a “royal” blue dicky bow.
She and Fluffy, a qualified therapy dog, volunteer their services around nursing homes and she likes the royal couple because of their charity work. “Fluffy’s a royalist, like me, ” she says, “He was born in Wales and my little girl, who’s now in heaven, was from England. ”
In the grounds, various dignitaries gather in a marquee listening to trad and eating sandwiches. Danny Healy Rae recalls driving a digger around the grounds when it was being remodelled some years before. “Killarney is well able to welcome this prince to the country,” he says, proudly.
Sinn Féin TD and former IRA member Martin Ferris is also here. “My motivation for being here today is to show that we are putting the past behind us and we’re trying to build a new Ireland that’s inclusive of everyone irrespective of their persuasion,” he says. “I’ll just welcome him to Kerry and hope he has a good time and obviously that he’s travelling the journey his great, great, great grandmother took in 1861.”
He laughs. “He took a long time to come back.”
Eventually, word comes to the master of ceremonies, Michael Rosney, to usher everyone into the beautiful but drizzly garden. “It’s only liquid sunshine,” he says.
When the royal couple emerge from the house itself they greet people and, at one point, Prince Charles and Ferris shake hands.
Later, someone asks Ferris if it was a warm handshake. “It was,” he says.
Did Prince Charles know who he was? “Someone might have told him.”
Then there are a few speeches in the garden, including one from Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan, before Rosney inducts the royal couple into the Order of Innisfallen.
He predicts we would find out whether God was from Cork or Kerry if he kept the rain away for the duration of the event. “I’d like to confirm that God is in fact a Kerryman,” he says at the end.