Royal visit to Cork: ‘Is it the musician Prince?’

Starstruck Cork does its best to make Charles and Camilla laugh at the English Market

We're getting used to royal visits now. Nevertheless when Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall turn up at Cork's English Market at 10.30 they are greeted by a horde of screaming school children.

The Tánaiste earlier noted what a great opportunity the visit was to showcase the city and reinforced the fact that “we’ve moved on from the hang ups of the past.”

Prince Charles has, in fact, been to Ireland a few times recently, Coveney said, but "now he's come to the very best part of Ireland."

Cork people do love Cork. There's an energetic brass band from the Music Generation playing great versions of Sweet Dreams, Seven Nation Army and I Want you Back while bouncing around in red t-shirts.


"We only found out we were playing four days ago," says 12-year-old Conor Redmond.

"We were shocked," says 14-year-old Luca Andreoni.

“They royal family are so big,” says Redmond, “you don’t get bigger.”

"It's a real opportunity for us and for Cork," says Caoimhe Barry, aged 17. "And Cork is the real capital like."

The Tánaiste, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, Lord Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzgerald and his wife Georgina Fitzgerald and Ann Doherty chief executive of Cork City Council guide the royal couple around the Market.

The royals spend the time chatting to stall holders before arriving at the back of the market to cut a cake celebrating its 230th year and unveil a plaque commemorating their visit.

There’s an array of responses from traders and punters.

"I don't know much about him because I'm from Texas, " says Virginia O'Gara, who is here showcasing the food from her vegan food company My Goodness. "Is it the musician, Prince?"

“He’s very ecologically minded which is quite a good thing,” says her friend Lean Malone.

“How much money is spent on these events is kind of problematic but it’s good for the market and good for Cork.”

O’Gara has some fermented rain water that they want Charles and Camilla to try (Camilla later says she likes it). What do they want to say to Prince Charles? “My favourite album is Purple Rain,” says O’Gara. “I’m joking. I’m going to say that it’s the responsibility of people in positions of power to create a sustainable future for future generations.” She pauses. “Oh, and I’m going to convince him to go vegan”.


On the way out a number of women dressed a little like Peig Sayers are waiting with a bouquet of paper flowers and a basket of traditional Irish food.

"We're the Coalquay Shawlies," explains Liz Donavan. "Our families worked in the other market, the Irish Market. The English market was always for the posh people. We keep the heritage alive."

"They used to sell paper flowers like these," says Breda Scanlon, showing me the roses. "And do you know where they kept their money?" I don't. They all pull their skirts up to show old Irish punts beneath their stockings.

"I'm going to ask Prince Charles if he wants a loan," says Suzanne Dineen.

“I’m going to offer to pay all the money they loaned us during the recession back” says Donovan.

“I’m going to offer to exchange it for sterling,” says Breda Scanlon, and she does. Prince Charles finds it hilarious. They give him a basket of meat and he says he’ll try it.

People are generally starstruck. Teresa Ross and Gwendoline Carroll are awed at having shaken the Prince's hand.

Carroll has a little Union Jack flag and has been to at least ten royal events – including the Queen mother’s hundredth birthday and the marriage of Will and Kate.

She even camped out on the Mall after the death of Diana. “I’m a pure royalist,” she says.

Accompanying the Prince and Duchess throughout their visit to the market is Pat O’Connell, the fishmonger who famously charmed the queen during her 2011 visit.

O’Connell says he thinks the Prince loved the reception. “The kind of reception you only get in the English Market.”

Did he make the Prince laugh this time? “We did. I told him we were at the spot where your mother threw your head back and laughed and so he’d better laugh. He did. He said his mammy told him he had to say hello to me.”

Was it like the last time? “Ah, it was never going to be the same,” he says. “There’s only one queen.”