Feisty Fergie blazes trail for children

AN ambassador for children in need who travels to more countries than FedEx was in Ireland yesterday to launch a new charity.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was neither being flippant nor flakey when she said: “I try not to be anywhere.

“My work is children,” she said, and wherever there were children at risk whose plight could be served by her high-profile, high-octane patronage, that was the place where she was happiest to be.

Poland, Mexico, the US and Hong Kong are just some of the places she has visited, not in the past number of weeks, but days.

Her superhuman stamina is palpable as she rattles off the myriad projects to which she has given her name, time and energy in recent times.

Before stopping off in Cork city yesterday, she visited Sligo. “I was met by at least 200 people,” she said. “I pressed every single hand and every single person wanted to have their photo taken with me.

“Ireland and the Irish people have given me back my life,” she said.

The 46-year-old striking redhead talks freely about her time off the rails, in the wake of her marriage break-up with Prince Andrew.

It was a period in which her out of control eating and spending led to great gains and great losses, respectively.

She now takes pride in the fact that: “I reinvented myself.” In going back to the drawing board came a realisation that “I had got it wrong, but that I was prepared to change”.

She declined to discuss the British monarchy, but did say that the Queen of England is “the greatest person I have ever met” and her ex is “one of the finest gentlemen I know”.

Next August, she expects to have her autobiography in the shops and on the shelves. She’s thinking of calling the book Heather Blaze, after a one-time winner of the King George V Gold Cup horse race.

Sarah explained that when she was pulling her life together after the marriage break-up she turned to her childhood hobby of show jumping.

She arranged an introduction to Cork-based international rider Robert Splaine, having asked an Irish friend when she saw him and a grey horse called Heather Blaze in competition on TV to “find that man in the green jacket on the grey horse”.

Under his tutelage in Cork she started riding again and competing.

She’s also working on a history of Powerscourt, the seat of her family in Co Wicklow. The story will be similar to Gone With The Wind in many respects, she quipped.

“It will be Tara meets Powerscourt.” And who will play her part, if the story became a movie? “I never thought about that. It would have to be some up-and-coming actress with red hair and someone who is very feisty,” she said.

Yesterday, she launched the Daisychain Foundation both in Sligo and later at a fundraising dinner in Cork.

The charity combines with the Clarion group to fund weekend hotel breaks for families caring for children with disabilities. It also pays for nursing care for the children while the parents are on the break.

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