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Thursday 27 July 2017

On to a winner: rapturous reception for royals at races

Former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin with Prince Charles and the Duchess of York Camilla after the peace and reconciliation service at St Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe yesterday. Photo: Chris Bellew
Former President Mary McAleese and her husband Martin with Prince Charles and the Duchess of York Camilla after the peace and reconciliation service at St Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe yesterday. Photo: Chris Bellew

Greg Harkin

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were greeted by rapturous cheers as they attended the Sligo races last night, with the duchess promising a flutter on a 'lucky' jockey.

The 6.30pm race named in their honour got under starters orders on time before a crowd of thousands at the race track.

Mark Walsh rode 13/2 Mollyanna to the winner's enclosure where the royal couple were on hand to present the prizes.

Walsh had won the first race as well, and Camilla joked: "You're not having a bad day are you?"

She then asked the jockey the name of his horse in the following race and she laughed: "Well, I might have a flutter on that."

As it turned out, Walsh failed to make it three-in-a-row.

Winning owner, Wexford's Bernard Cloney, chatted to the duchess afterwards.

"That was a bit special," he said.

"Mollyanna's brother was second in the Grand National last year and the duchess knew that.

"I was a bit nervous but that was good fun. It was an honour to meet them here."

Prince Charles was in similarly jovial mood earlier in Drumcliffe where he was invited to attend a Spike Milligan festival held in Sligo every year to honour the prince's favourite comedian.

Artist Annie West, from The Goons Preservation Society, laughed and joked with the prince.

"Spike's father was from here and Charles knew that, but he didn't know about the festival so I invited to come next year and he said he'd love to come," said Annie.

The light-hearted moment came after a sombre peace and reconciliation service at St Columba's Church in Drumcliffe.

Former President Mary McAleese and British Ambassador to Ireland Dominick Chilcott led prayers at the ecumenical service.

Among the congregation was 17-year-old Bethany McLoughlin whose grandfather Gerard McKinney was among the 13 people shot dead by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry as well as relatives of some of the 18 soldiers killed in the IRA bomb attacks at Narrow Water, Warrenpoint.

Mrs McAleese said the service had been "very emotional" especially for the prince, adding: "Today he is finally able to do what most other people would do; visit the scene where a loved one has died."

Irish Independent

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