The Rebel city has done royal visits before. But for Patsy Flynn and his wife, Kathy, it was their first.
They were among several relatives of Irish Naval Service personnel who are currently serving on the LÉ Samuel Beckett in the Mediterranean who spoke to Prince Charles during his visit to Haulbowline yesterday.
Their son, Podge, 41, is a chef on board. They admitted that beforehand, they weren’t quite sure what to expect during their meeting.
“I thought the prince might be a bit stuck up, a bit standoff-ish. But he was totally the opposite. I wouldn’t mind having him over for tea,” Kathy said.
Her own handsome prince, Patsy, said meeting Prince Charles surpassed all his expectations.
“He was so down to earth. He was so easy to speak to. I’m amazed at him, really,” he said.
The Flynns were quayside along with dozens of other family members as Charles became the first member of the British royal family to board an Irish off-shore patrol vessel, the WB Yeats, spending almost 15 minutes chatting to her crew.
Aisling Crosse, 9, who was quayside with her mother, Fiona, told Prince Charles her brother, Philip, 21, is serving in the Med.
“He asked me if I was missing him, and I said yes,” she said, before presenting him with a bouquet of flowers for Camilla.
Just moments before, the prince accepted a gift of a hurley made by the O’Connors of Newtownshandrum, from the pupils of St Brendan’s NS, whose school tour of the naval base coincided with the royal visit.
Earlier, the royal couple began their engagements in the English Market where Tánaiste Simon Coveney recalled the watershed moment when he accompanied Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip through the same aisles in 2011.
He spoke of the importance of such visits, and of the deepening relationship between the two countries.
Inside, Prince Charles told market fishmonger Pat O’Connell, a dab hand at royal visits, that his mother had warned him he had to stop by, before he helped them cut a cake to celebrate the market’s 230th birthday.
Fellow market traders, Frank Hedderman and Caroline Workman, from Belvelly Smokehouse, who know Camilla’s son, food writer Tom Parker Bowles, said they were delighted to meet the royal couple.
“Tom’s a big fan of our salmon and Camilla asked if she’d be eating it later, and I said it’s on the menu,” Frank said.
Outside, market trader Daphne Roche’s sons, Sam, nine, and Mathew, seven, who looked very dapper in their dickie bows, presented the couple with flowers as they left the market.
Crowds were sparse but enthusiastic, with hundreds of school children lining the Grand Parade, and dancing along to the tunes of a Music Generation group, as the Cobh Animation Team, dressed in Victorian-era clothing, and the Cork Coal Quay shawlies added a splash of colour.
It wasn’t a bad last day in office for Lord Mayor Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, who hosted a civic reception, where guests included Young Offenders creator Peter Foote and his actor wife Hillary Rose, chef Rachel Allen, sports stars Aisling Thompson and Rob Heffernan, and representatives from the Royal Cork Yacht Club, the oldest in the world.
It was on then to UCC where the Prince was presented with the sheet music to a specially commissioned piece of harp music.
Disability rights campaigner, Joanne O’Riordan beeped the horn of her wheelchair during a conversation about the technology she uses, and Young Scientist winner, Simon Meehan, talked the Prince through his project.
His security detail broke into a slight sweat when he stepped into the Famine hut, built on campus, and spent more time inside and out of sight, than they expected. Or were comfortable with.
He emerged finally into the sunlight and declared: “I’m impressed how somebody could make such a structure.”
And just as his mother did during her visit to Ireland in 2011, Prince Charles raised a toast ‘as gaeilge’ last night at the start of a meal loaded with symbolism, yet seasoned with a hint of sadness.
The memory of Irish food champion, Myrtle Allen, who died on Tuesday, aged 94, loomed large in the Crawford Gallery as 60 VIP guests dined in its Long Room.
Many of those who prepared the meal work at Ballymaloe. Many of those who served the meal are related to her. The menu was hand-drawn by Mrs Allen’s grand-daughter, Lydia Hugh-Jones.
“Mrs Allen would cook on, so we will too,” one of the team said.
And she was remembered fondly as the meal showcased the finest local ingredients, many of which were sourced in the English Market.
Gallery Cafe chef Sinead Doran, who was assisted in the kitchen by her former teacher at Ballymaloe, Rory O’Connell, spent weeks preparing the the VIP event.
“It featured a lot of what they would have seen in the English Market earlier,” Sinead said.
“It was really exciting to cook for someone who likes organic, local food. He likes what we like. There was a lot of pressure in terms of logistics and timings but it went well.”
The menu featured new season sparkling elderflower and appetisers including radishes with wild sorel mayonnaise, Ballymaloe cheese croquettes, Frank Hedderman’s smoked salmon, of course, and devilled crab.
The six-course meal featured Ardsallagh goat’s cheese, with local honey and rocket leaves, poached wild Blackwater salmon with garden peas, chervil and hollandaise sauce, roast rack and leg of East Cork lamb, with sweet marjoram and Shanagarry baby carrots with a salad of leaves from the Ballymaloe garden and Ballycotton new potatoes, following by deserts including strawberry and elderberry jelly, with crushed strawberries and cream, with elderflower granita, and pistachio langues de chat, and a plate of Cork farmhouse cheeses from the market.
Charles and Camilla are due to visit Kerry today.
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