Donegal butcher brothers serve up sausages fit for future king Charles
It may be a sign of new normality that royal visit attracted crowd of just a few hundred
Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, sample award-winning sausages made by brothers Diarmuid (left) and Ernan McGettigan at their butcher’s shop in Donegal town. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
One year on since Prince Charles’s emotional pilgrimage to Mullaghmore, Co Sligo, yesterday’s six-hour trip to the northwest, conducted with great efficiency, speed and warmth, carried none of the same baggage or excitement.
There had been no formal invitation but, as a spokesman put it, the Department of Foreign Affairs “was happy to work with the British embassy on this short but welcome visit” by the prince and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.
Security was clearly planned with bigger crowds in mind and after the highly-charged atmosphere of Mullaghmore.
It may be a healthy sign of normalisation that the visit of the British heir to the throne attracted a crowd of just a few hundred.
Even the duchess’s clothes reflected the new normality. Gone were the requisite shades of green; she settled for a Claddagh brooch attached to her royal blue coat-dress.
But normality still has some way to go. Gardaí billeted in Letterkenny for the short trip had booked out several hotels, while the couple’s entourage included an eight-strong motorcycle escort, a traffic corps jeep, a limo or two, half a dozen black Audi SUVs and the Northern Ireland-registered BMW in which the prince was travelling.
Most people were not averse to the visit and might even have liked a look, said a local, but they would not have been happy to see their pictures in the paper. Others, “with all due respect”, reckoned that Kate and Will might have been more diverting. Or, said one elderly woman wistfully, “maybe Diana, if things had gone different”.
A group of about 20 girls and boys from Glebe national school, supervised by teacher Alison Pasquier, waited 90 minutes in the warm sunshine.
Why was the prince coming to Donegal? we asked. “To get sausages – and he’s going to get a free suit from Magee’s,” said Chloe Love.
“He’s doing peacekeeping in Northern Ireland because it’s getting a bit dangerous up there,” said Callum Sweeney.
It was a red-letter day for the Glebe since world-class boxer Jason Quigley – a former pupil – was due to visit later.
How many of them would abandon Jason for the prince if the timetables became confused? we asked. One. That was Laura McGirr, to general bafflement. “Because he’s like the king and he’s going to be the king of England, ” she explained.
On hand to greet the royal couple at the Diamond in Donegal town was Noel Cunningham, manager of Harvey’s Point Hotel, television personality and “world champion talker” in the words of a local.
The couple, staying inside the security fence, made small talk with people in the crowd. Hands were shaken, a baby was hugged, a bunch of yellow chrysanthemums was presented, and the children of the Glebe sang a rousing chorus of the school anthem.
Ernan, the talkative brother, pronounced the experience “unbelievable”.
“We’ve had six weeks of keeping our mouths zipped . . . It’s a fabulous honour for us as brothers, and our dad in particular but unfortunately he could not be here today.
“This is all about him, he started the business in 1952. And it’s a great honour for us as artisan food producers, that’s what it’s all about.
“Our aim is to promote Donegal, promote the area, get people to visit the area. And we have 29 varieties of sausages which manage to do that. The prince tasted the sausages and thought they were fabulous. Lady Camilla tasted the lamb with rosemary and plum. He tasted the European champion, the hickory and maple, and was wiped away by it.” What did he say? “He said ‘that’s fabulous’.”
“What more could he say – we are European champions after all,” interjected Diarmuid, the less talkative brother.
The two men also told him about their abattoir, how “they come in around the back and are taken out the front in a plastic bag”.
They also launched a new sausage in honour of the day. A confection of black pudding with cured bacon and pear. And its name? “The Buckingham Black banger – fit for a future king.”
Word came that Charles asked if there were “chunks of bacon in it” but declined to taste it.
Royal endorsements don’t come that easy.