Friday 19 January 2018

'Don't ever lose the accent' - What princess said to 'Diana's biggest Irish fan'

A selection of photographs of Princess Diana taken by Ms Dunican. Photo: Michelle Rogers Dunican
A selection of photographs of Princess Diana taken by Ms Dunican. Photo: Michelle Rogers Dunican

Sorcha O'Connor

She may be described as Ireland's biggest Diana fan and now an exhibition of photos taken by Co Laois nurse Michelle Rogers Dunican of the late princess will go on display.

Ms Dunican, who worked as a nurse in the UK during the late 1980s and 1990s, made it her business to try to attend every public engagement with the princess.

A selection of photographs of Princess Diana taken by Ms Dunican. Photo: Michelle Rogers Dunican
A selection of photographs of Princess Diana taken by Ms Dunican. Photo: Michelle Rogers Dunican

Ms Dunican, from Abbeyleix, was lucky enough to cross paths with the princess 37 times during her time in London, but the first time is still a vivid memory for her.

"In 1988 I went to London to do my nurse training and Diana was going to a theatre down the road from me in Bromley. I was down to see what was going on, and I saw her going into the theatre. I waited for three hours till she came out, and she came over. She shook hands and said a few words. I couldn't believe it, I was amazed," she said.

Ms Dunican (48), who is married to Anthony and has a son Peter (16) and daughter Sarah (14), said her interest in the princess began with the royal wedding of the then Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.

"It was nothing to do with an interest in photography, my interest was purely in Diana. In 1981 when she got married, my mum, who is English, had a great interest in it and bought me a book on the royal wedding, and that started my interest in Diana from 1981 on," she told the Irish Independent. "I was 12 when she got married and I had no real interest in the royal family really. It was her, when she got married and the whole razzmatazz about her."

Michelle Rogers Dunican (on left) with Sarah Webb, the owner of The Gallic Kitchen at Bramley in Abbeyleix, where Michelle’s exhibition of photographs of Princess Diana
opens today. Photo: Michael Scully
Michelle Rogers Dunican (on left) with Sarah Webb, the owner of The Gallic Kitchen at Bramley in Abbeyleix, where Michelle’s exhibition of photographs of Princess Diana opens today. Photo: Michael Scully

While the nurse built up an impressive collection of photographs throughout the princess's golden era, she explained the main appeal was getting the opportunity to speak to the "charismatic" princess.

"Really it was about meeting her and she'd get to know you, she'd see the same faces, me and 10 or 11 other people who always tried to go to her engagements as much as possible," Ms Dunican said.

"She'd say things like 'Have you no work to go to?' and I'd explain I was a nurse and worked weekends, and would have days off during the week. So then she'd ask how the nursing was going, or things like that."

Collection

The mother-of-two said that being Irish was something that set her apart. "One day, as (the princess) was walking, we asked her something about William and Harry, and she looked back at me and said, 'Don't ever lose the accent'."

Now a selection of 24 photographs from 1990-97 from Ms Dunican's private collection of more than 400 pictures will go on display in a free exhibition in the Gallic Kitchen at Bramley in Abbeyleix.

She said she was grateful to photographer Mick Bunn who mounted the collection for her, and Andy Ring, owner of irishheritagetowns.com and the "driving force" behind the exhibition.

It opens today at 7.30pm and runs until August 31.

Irish Independent

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