Drogheda's welcome was fit for a prince

Hubert MurphyDrogheda Independent

He came, he saw and he conquered. But unlike many princes of the past, he came in peace, almost with roses in hand, as Drogheda heralded the State visit of Prince Albert II of Monaco to the town last Friday.

A smiling prince was introduced to centuries of history in less than two hours, but perhaps above it all, he appreciated the many fond memories people shared of his parents, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace who visited the Boyneside in 1961.

Writing in the guest book towards the end of his visit, he remarked, ' 'In memory of visit to Drogheda and the inauguration of the Princess Grace Rose Garden and this wonderful exhibit of photographs from my parents' visit in '61 at Highlanes Gallery. This visit marks the closeness of the strong links between my family and Ireland, the very special memories of past visits and the everlasting friendship with the Irish people.'

His journey began that morning, arriving at a major biodiversity conference, organised by Philip McCabe,

There, he met students who showed off their projects and once again demonstrated his great interest in the planet and its future.

After lunch at the Boyne Valley Hotel, he was on the move again to the Rose garden at Dominick's Park and then to the Highlanes Gallery for more chat, comment and history.

There, Aoife Ruane from the Highlanes allowed close access to the Mace and Sword, the prince clearly taken wih the experience.

He also viewed the images of Drogheda and the stunning works of Nano Reid.

And while security, led by Supt Andrew Watters, was tight, the prince showed his 'man of the people' attitude, almost rushing to shake endless hands, from the likes of the St Joseph's BLOOM students to the crowds that greeted him in Laurence's Street.

'It is with great joy and emotion that I return to Ireland, a place very close and dear to my heart and the birthplace of my mother's family,' he stated.

He said the creation of the rose garden was a wonderful tribute to his beloved mother in the heart of the 'city of Drogheda'.

He said nothing could be more suitable than a rose garden, because she loved roses and nature.

He said he would be 'infinitely grateful' for the gesture from Mayor Pio Smith, the council and designer Paul Martin.

The prince felt it would be a 'lasting memory' between Ireland and Monaco and he revealed that he would love to come back to Drogheda soon.