Traditional welcome: Prince Albert enjoys visit to ancestral home in Mayo


PRINCE ALBERT of Monaco visited his ancestral home in Newport, Co Mayo, yesterday at the end of his State visit to Ireland.

Back in 1979, Princess Grace and her husband, Prince Rainier, had examined architectural plans to restore the remains at Drimurla – the ruined cottage where her grandfather, John Peter Kelly, was born and reared, before emigrating to the US in 1887. However, it was not to be for she died three years later.

After Prince Albert’s visit yesterday, Mayo county manager Peter Hynes said the restoration of the cottage had been “touched on briefly” during discussions in Newport. There was a “desire on all sides to consolidate the house”, he said, and the first objective was to make the house safe.

The couple met Irish cousins in Newport House, and an honorary cousin for the day – one Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring who had been instrumental in securing the Mayo visit. Afterwards they walked over the Newport river to the Gráinne Uaile pub, where both reportedly partook of pints of Guinness.

The prince’s fiancee didn’t seem put out by the weather. “It’s wet and raining, but it’s beautiful,” Charlene Wittstock said. André Connolly, a pupil at Cuilmore National School in Newport, was ecstatic as he helped form a guard of honour for the couple’s cup of tea in Newport House.

The school’s roll books indicate that John P Kelly was a pupil there.

Earlier in the day, the couple had taken a scheduled Aer Arann flight from Dublin to Galway to visit the Marine Institute headquarters, specifically at Prince Albert’s request. They were welcomed by Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney and the institute’s chief executive, Dr Peter Heffernan, and given a tour and talk before signing a memorandum of understanding between the Galway centre and the Institut Océanographique in Monaco.

Prince Albert’s grandfather, also Albert, founded the institute, where the late underwater explorer and film-maker Jacques Yves-Cousteau carried out much of his research.

Paying tribute to the Marine Institute’s work, Prince Albert said that Ireland has “reconnected itself with the ocean” and he believed that “if we can provide a little support for different programmes, we would be thrilled to do so”. He professed a personal interest in marine research, including work on ocean energy and climate change issues.

The entourage then left Ireland from Ireland West Airport in Knock.