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Special present brings best of Ireland back to Buckingham Palace

IT was a hamper fit for a queen -- and perfect for a late-night Buckingham Palace snack.

Traders at the 18th-century English Market in Cork city did their royal homework to ensure a special artisan food hamper presented to Queen Elizabeth yesterday was packed with the British monarch's favourite treats.

The hamper was presented in a beautiful oval basket specially made by Martin and Yvon O'Flynn from Willow Basketry in Kealkil, West Cork.

Packed inside the hamper were 20 different Irish artisan food products -- led by the queen's own favourite farmhouse cheese, Milleens from Beara.

Cork's Lord Mayor Michael O'Connell said he hoped the hamper would offer the queen "a tasty reminder" back in Buckingham Palace of her Irish visit.

Tom Durcan, chairman of the English Market Traders, supplied a choice piece of spiced beef -- ironically a dish that was a favourite for royal navy quartermasters when their vessels docked in Cork back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Kay O'Connell Fishmongers supplied Irish smoked salmon, Ballycotton Seafood supplied smoked mackerel, O'Sullivan's Poultry donated a free-range duck, the FarmGate restaurant gave a porter cake (a favourite of Prince Philip) and the Real Olive Company donated a chunk of their award-winning Irish mozzarella from the country's first buffalo herd in Macroom.

No Cork hamper would be complete without a ring of finest Clonakilty black pudding.

Topping it all off was a silver brooch depicting Cork's famous butter market, designed by master silversmith Chris Carroll.

The queen also left Ireland with plenty of reading material -- she received a specially bound copy of 'Serving the City', the history of the English Market by The Collins Press.

Mr O'Connell presented the queen with a copy of the charter bestowed on Cork by Queen Victoria in 1900.

The charter upgraded the role of Cork's mayor -- whose position dates back to the 13th Century -- to that of lord mayor so it ranked alongside the first citizens of Dublin and Belfast.

University College Cork (UCC) -- which was founded by Queen Victoria -- made a presentation of a special white silk muslin and lace scarf inspired by a memento given to a Cork-born hero of the Boer War by the monarch in 1900.

The scarf -- designed by artist Carmel Creamer -- features mathematical symbols to reflect the work of George Boole, UCC's first maths professor and the man widely credited with developing the principles that led to modern computing.

Irish Independent