'They were very ordinary people the two of them': Marking ten years since the Queen and Prince Philip visited Cork

'They were very ordinary people the two of them': Marking ten years since the Queen and Prince Philip visited Cork

Queen Elizabeth II meeting fishmonger Pat O'Connell at The English Market in during her State visit to Ireland. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire

NEXT week marks ten years since the historic visit of Britain's longest-reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, to Cork. 

The Queen and her late husband Prince Philip came to Cork on May 20, 2011 - just one month after the wedding of their grandson Prince William to Kate Middleton.

Cork city marked the final stop in their State visit to Ireland - a momentous occasion for the country. 

The front page of The Echo that day carried the headline 'We're delighted to see you', with the accompanying article underscoring the significance of the occasion. 

"Today Cork is honoured to welcome Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to our city by the Lee. 

"She has won the affection of the Irish people during her State visit, which has been truly historic.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II meeting members of the public outside The English Market in Cork city on the last day of her State visit to Ireland. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire 
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II meeting members of the public outside The English Market in Cork city on the last day of her State visit to Ireland. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire 

"It is no exaggeration to say that relations between this country and Britain have moved on to a new level this week.

"That is thanks to the warmth and respect shown by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip towards this country and its people."

The week prior to the royal visit, major security operations were being finalised. 

"Gardaí are continuing to examine sewers and pipes and sealing manhole covers in both the city centre and along the South Link Road and Airport Road.

"Officials have yet to announce the details of which Cork streets will be closed for the visit and for how long, however, it is expected that there will be extensive traffic restrictions in place on Friday with the city seeing one of the largest security operations ever put in place - far outstripping the protocols put in place for the visit to Cork of US president John F Kennedy in 1963," The Echo reported. 

Queen Elizabeth II leaving the English Market after she was presented with a bouquet of flowers by young Julie Anna Higgins (in red dress) Photo: Billy macGill
Queen Elizabeth II leaving the English Market after she was presented with a bouquet of flowers by young Julie Anna Higgins (in red dress) Photo: Billy macGill

During her visit to the city, the Queen received a tour of the English Market, after which she made an unscheduled walkabout along Grand Parade before her visit to Tyndall National Institute.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh left the country from Cork Airport in the late afternoon.

Speaking to The Echo following the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh last month, Pat O’Connell of K O'Connell Fish Merchants in the English Market recalled the historic occasion. 

Mr O’Connell, whose quick wit famously tickled the Queen and her late husband said the visit “only seems like yesterday”.

“We had a great laugh that time," he said. 

Queen Elizabeth II with the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Michael O'Connell during her visit to Cork's English Market. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Queen Elizabeth II with the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Michael O'Connell during her visit to Cork's English Market. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

“They were very ordinary people the two of them, the Queen and himself. I suppose you have perceptions of these people and the life they live and you kind of expect them to be something totally different from what they are in reality - they were like any other couple at the counter.”

Following the visit, Mr O’Connell was later invited to Buckingham Palace where he was among some 350 Irish people invited to a reception hosted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2014 to recognise the contribution of the Irish to Britain.

Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to Tyndall Institute. Photo: Gerard McCarthy
Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh on a visit to Tyndall Institute. Photo: Gerard McCarthy

Mr O’Connell said the positive feedback he received from the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to the Market in 2011 meant a lot to him.

“It was really interesting actually because Julian King, who was the British Ambassador in Ireland in 2011, he came down to the Market six or seven weeks after the visit with Tim Lucey and he called up to us and said the Market really rocked for the Queen, she got such a kick out of it and I just said we just did what we always do, we just had a laugh and he said ‘Yeah Pat but how many people meet the Queen of England and do what they normally do?'

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II clearly enjoying meeting well-wishers on Grand Parade after a tour of The English Market. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II clearly enjoying meeting well-wishers on Grand Parade after a tour of The English Market. Photo: Maxwells/PA Wire

“He said they just loved being treated as ordinary people and having the bit of craic.

“They got such a kick out of it and I just thought yes, the Market really does have something special.”

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