Thursday 29 September 2016

Catch of the day: How fishmonger sharing a joke with monarch became an iconic image

Published 14/05/2016 | 02:30

Fishmonger Pat O’Connell in the English Market on the anniversary of the Queen’s visit to Cork with the iconic photograph of him sharing a joke with the monarch in the background. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Fishmonger Pat O’Connell in the English Market on the anniversary of the Queen’s visit to Cork with the iconic photograph of him sharing a joke with the monarch in the background. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

It became the iconic photograph of the Irish State visit of Queen Elizabeth II.

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The British monarch was caught laughing out loud at a nervous joke told by a Cork fishmonger as she toured the city's 18th-century English Market on the final day of her State visit in May 2011.

Dublin may have had the grand political gestures of the State visit and the landmark symbols of Anglo-Irish reconciliation, but it was in the Rebel County that laughter was injected into an itinerary where ordinary people, British and Irish, were reminded that they had far more in common than set them apart.

Award-winning Kerry photographer Valerie O'Sullivan took the famous snap of the queen laughing merrily at Pat O'Connell's joke.

Valerie said she knew there would be good images from the Queen's stop at O'Connell's fish stall but had no idea the photograph would prove to be so popular.

"I knew Pat was a great character. The minute I saw him stepping out from the counter I knew we were going to get something good," she said.

For Pat, he still can't believe the reaction to his attempt at humour. The joke he cracked was that he was more nervous meeting the Queen than he was on his own wedding day.

The following Christmas, he was stunned to receive a card from Queen Elizabeth II.

In July 2010, the then-British ambassador to Ireland, Julian King, contacted Mr O'Connell and asked him to sign a copy of the iconic photograph so that it could be presented to the Queen to add to her private collection. "It was a great day for Ireland, but particularly for Cork," he said.

Irish Independent

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