His witty comments, which made a monarch laugh and made headlines around the world, have helped Pat O’Connell steal Molly Malone’s crown as Ireland’s best-known fishmonger.
So said Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night in a special message to the figurehead of Cork’s English Market, who launched a book in the historic indoor market last night.
Pat said he was deeply moved by the personal message from Mr Kenny ahead of the launch of The Fishmonger.
“It was a lovely letter — definitely one for the wall,” he said.
Pat shot to international fame when an iconic photograph of him laughing with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II over a “mother-in-law fish” during her tour of the market as part of her 2011 state visit to Ireland was flashed around the world.
“That picture captured what we Irish are famous for — our spontaneity, good humour, our ability to never miss a moment,” said Mr Kenny.
“We thought it was your prediction that Cork hurlers would do the double, or something equally important. But then it became clear.
“Pat, most men, will admit that they were nervous of the day of their wedding, but I think it takes a Corkman to share that experience with the Queen of England.”
Mr Kenny described Pat as a wonderful ambassador for the English Market, for Cork, and for Ireland.
Queen Elizabeth, who received a signed copy of The Fishmonger at Buckingham Palace earlier this week, also wrote to express her thanks.
She said the gift brings back happy memories of her visit to Ireland and to Cork.
Pat said he hopes the book will serve as a fitting tribute to his parents, Kay and John.
“They worked selflessly and tirelessly to provide me and my brother Paul with a better life,” he said.
Kay took over her fish stall — a wooden table and a marble slab fitted with rain gutters — in the English Market in 1963.
With her formidable discipline, hard work, and entrepreneurship, she built it into what is now one of the most successful fish businesses in the country.
Today, Pat and Paul run the award-winning stall and an oak-burning smokehouse in Bandon.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Marymount Hospice.
“Marymout were really good to my family in our darkest hour, and I always wanted to do something for them, so I delighted to finally get that opportunity,” said Pat.
* The Fishmonger, published by The Liffey Press, is on sale now, priced €15.95.
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