AN ELDERLY Cork man was taken aback to receive a personal letter from the queen of England after writing to her about his health issues.
James McKeon said he received a reply from Elizabeth II just a week after writing to her.
The Bishopstown local had enclosed a copy of his book The Spy-Catcher's wife with the note which detailed how he endured eight serious operations in the space of just a year.
The 79-year-old confessed that he had become a huge fan of the royal after her visit to Cork in 2011. Judging by the queen's response it seems the feeling is now mutual. Part of the 94-year-old's letter, dictated to a royal aid, read as follows:
"The Queen wishes to thank you for your letter with which you enclosed a copy of your book. Her Majesty was touched that you sent her a present. The Queen, however, was sorry to hear that this has been a difficult year for you and of the health challenges you had and hopes you are now feeling better. Her majesty greatly appreciated the warm sentiment and I am to thank you very much for writing at this time."
The letter was a welcome gesture following what had been a difficult number of months for Mr McKeon.
"I had experienced a terrible 12 months where I was in and out of hospital. I had been through eight operations. There were times where I was having black-outs and couldn't breathe. I didn't go into too much detail in my letter but explained that I had experienced a difficult year healthwise.
"Thankfully, I'm doing well now. I know people who were stuck staring at the four walls but, in my case, there wasn't enough time in the day. I was doing so much between painting and writing."
Mr McKeon suspects that he may have more in common with the queen than either of them realise.
"I'm convinced that - since she owns dogs and a pigeon loft - she must have some rebel blood in her. She won the hearts of everyone in Cork when she came to visit that time.
"She must have been on her feet for four hours which is very impressive for a woman of her age. To her, I'd only be a young fella so I haven't got much to complain about."
The Bishopstown man said he was thrilled with her down-to-earth words.
"The letter she sent was beautiful. Soon as I saw it, I knew it was from Buckingham Palace. Some people knock the queen. They hate royals and kings and queens but she is someone I have always admired.
"She was a very young age when she became queen and has been there through thick and thin. I thought it was particularly brave when she shook hands with Martin McGuinness all those years ago."
Mr McKeon hopes that her majesty will find time within her hectic schedule to enjoy his book.
"The Spy-Catcher's wife is about an Irish girl called Molly Kennedy who falls in love with British army officer whose job is to catch spies. The story itself is fictional but it's set against a backdrop of reality showing what Irish life was like 100 years ago. It's set during the time of the IRA, the troubles, murders and bloodbaths."