Charles has a Corker of a time

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Ni­cola An­der­son in Cork

Bri­tain’s Prince Charles has a laugh with the ladies of the Coal Quays Shawlies af­ter his visit to the English Mar­ket in Cork city yes­ter­day. Photo: Frank McGrath.

IT WAS the first time a mem­ber of the Bri­tish royal fam­ily had boarded an Ir­ish naval ves­sel. But more im­por­tantly, per­haps, it was also the first time they had en­tered an Ir­ish bothán.

The hum­ble mud cab­ins, in which at least 40pc of the pop­u­la­tion en­dured mis­ery and wretched hard­ship – and in which far too many died – cer­tainly re­ceived no royal vis­i­tors in Famine times.

And so Prince Charles’s visit to the lit­tle one­roomed house built out of wat­tle and sods, with its dra­mat­i­cally flour­ish­ing cover of veg­e­ta­tion, felt un­ex­pect­edly mov­ing.

It was far more like he was pay­ing his re­spects at a mass Famine grave, than the grounds of UCC.

The ex­pres­sion on his face as he bowed to exit its low door ap­peared to be a com­bi­na­tion of shock, be­wil­der­ment and also, per­haps, sor­row.

“And this is the Rolls Royce of both­áns,” pointed out Mike Mur­phy, the car­tog­ra­pher of the Ir­ish Famine at UCC. “You can’t recre­ate the mis­ery.”

It had been his idea to con­struct the bothán be­cause “peo­ple weren’t get­ting” how truly ap­palling con­di­tions were.

There was poignancy in Mr Mur­phy’s re­marks that

the hut would not be per­mit­ted to stand dur­ing the win­ter be­cause it will be “far too dan­ger­ous”.

There were many mo­ments dur­ing the visit of Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to Cork which felt spe­cial but this was a foot­note to the tragic his­tory of An Gorta Mór.

As their car pulled up out­side the English Mar­ket, they went straight over to the chil­dren of St Pa­trick’s girls’ Na­tional School, who had been ex­cit­edly fix­ing their yel­low hair rib­bons in the re­flec­tion of a shoe shop win­dow be­fore tak­ing their place at the bar­ri­cades.

Camilla wore a corn­flower blue coat with the Claddagh brooch she had been pre­sented with in Gal­way and beige suede shoes, while Charles was decked out in a blue pin­striped suit with a white car­na­tion in his but­ton­hole.

The Cork Bar­rack Street Band set the dial to ‘hol­i­day mood’. The cou­ple were met by Tá­naiste Si­mon Coveney, Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed and Lord Mayor of Cork Tony Fitzger­ald. “It’s a big mo­ment for Cork,” said the Tá­naiste be­fore­hand.

Charles was taken with lo­cal moz­zarella pro­duced by Toon’s Bridge Stall, telling Vourneen Faye that he had eaten “too large a break­fast”.

Un­der strict in­struc­tions from his mother to drop in on fish­mon­ger Pat O’Con­nell, Charles threw back his head in laugh­ter when he was re­minded about the lit­tle joke Pat had cracked to the queen about his wed­ding an­niver­sary.

They left laden with presents be­fore meet­ing the Coal Quay ‘shawlies’, dressed up like the women who used to work in the old mar­ket in Cork – and Charles was amused by the way they kept ban­knotes tucked into their stock­ings.

Then it was a civic re­cep­tion at City Hall, with guests in­clud­ing writer and di­rec­tor of ‘The Young Of­fend­ers’ Peter Foote, Olympian Rob Hef­fer­nan and James Whel­ton of Coder Dojo. Here, Charles de­liv­ered a speech em­bel­lished with a few care­ful words of Gaeilge. There was a veiled ref­er­ence to Brexit, say­ing he had “noth­ing but the great­est con­fi­dence” that “the friend­ship, col­lab­o­ra­tion and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing that Ire­land and the UK have en­joyed over re­cent years will en­dure, as we work to­gether to find so­lu­tions to shared chal­lenges and as our re­la­tion­ship evolves in the months and years ahead”.

The prince later had a pri­vate au­di­ence with Sinn Féin pres­i­dent Mary Lou Mc­Don­ald and vice pres­i­dent Michelle O’Neill.

Charles toasted his fi­nal night in Cork as he thanked the county for its “wel­comes and hos­pi­tal­ity”.

“Our coun­tries have trav­elled a trou­bled road to­gether. With rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing as our guides we have found a very im­por­tant new path to share pros­per­ity and se­cu­rity and to­gether we are de­ter­mined we must never lose our way again.”

Clock­wise from left: the cou­ple with Pat O’Con­nell; Charles meets ladies from the Cobh an­i­ma­tion team; and Camilla hold­ing an eightweek-old Labrador while vis­it­ing the Na­tional Guide Dogs Train­ing Cen­tre. Pho­tos: Reuters/ Frank McGrath/Tom Ho­nan

Charles emerges from a Famine-era mud hut. Photo: Reuters

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