A day to remember in Newport

Off the fence
A day to remember in Newport


Off the fence
Kathleen Loftus


FIFTY years ago Newport hit the world headlines when Princess Grace and her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco came to the area in search of her ancestral roots and met up with a number of her Mayo cousins. And last week’s visit by Prince Albert also attracted considerable media attention.
The Prince and his fiancée, who were accompanied on their visit by his Kelly cousins from Philadelphia and by the French Ambassador, were entertained with traditional music and singing provided by Brian Lennon, Julie Langan, Maria McHugh, Declan Askin, Jackie Small, and Gary Leahy. They were also entertained by the newly formed ‘Coda’, male choir.
Although the sun failed to shine and the rain continued to fall, large crowds of people turned out in the picturesque seaside village to get a glimpse of the Prince and his fiancée, as he visited Drimurla, the site of his ancestral home, and Newport House where his parents stayed on their visit fifty years ago.
Following the formalities of meeting with local representatives and distant relations, the Prince, having tasted the delights of Newport House including Kelly’s famous black pudding and  enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the visit, also took time out to visit a local pub, the Gráinne Uaile where he was welcomed by the owners Harry and Elizabeth McManamon, and family members Saileen and her family, Lourda and family and Jo.
There was a wonderful atmosphere as the Prince and his fiancée met with the locals and enjoyed a glass of Guinness. Among the locals who were there to welcome the couple, was 91-year-old, Elizabeth ‘Baby’ Bracken who had met and sang for Princess Grace and whose husband the late Gerard Bracken, journalist and former editor of The Mayo News, was one of the few journalist who met and interviewed the late Princess on her many visits to Newport. In 1995, Gerard wrote a booklet ‘Princess Grace-the Newport Connection’, which can now be seen in the Royal Library in Monaco.
This visit was a nostalgic one, both for Prince Albert and for the people of Newport who recalled the visits of his parents, and particularly Princess Grace, whom they claimed as their own and remembered with love for her natural beauty, elegance, and friendly personality, their Princess who strolled around the town, attended Mass in the local parish church of St Patrick’s and who exchanged a smile and a greeting for all she met.
As Prince Albert left for Knock Airport, local people who had gathered and stayed on the streets in the rain, hoping to meet with the Prince and his fiancée, cheered and wished them well, many of them producing photographs of Princess Grace, and asking for his autograph.  It was once again a wonderful ‘day to remember’ in Newport.

Kathleen Loftus
is The Mayo News Newport correspondent.