LAST TIME ROUND Prince Albert of Monaco sat in with some musicians in the Gráinne Uaile Bar during his last visit to Newport in 2011. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
EXCITEMENT is building around Newport as the west Mayo community prepares to roll out the metaphorical red carpet to welcome Prince Albert of Monaco to his ancestral home.
Albert II, Prince of Monaco, will be in Newport this Thursday afternoon to unveil a specially commissioned sculpture of his mother, Princess Grace of Monaco, known to many as the actress Grace Kelly, whose paternal grandfather hailed from the area.
The statue, which depicts Grace Kelly sitting on a bench, will be located on Castlebar Street close to the famous viaduct bridge overlooking Clew Bay.
The statue of Princess Grace, who died in 1982 at the age of 52 after a car crash, was commissioned by Newport Business Association. The association’s chairperson, Mary Keane, told The Mayo News that everyone is delighted to welcome Prince Albert back to Newport.
“There is great excitement, and we are doing our best to give a warm Newport welcome to his Serene Highness. This will be a great occasion for Newport. We are welcoming home one of our own,” she said, adding that they worked closely with the royal family in Monaco regarding the statue.
“Once we had the project idea, the royal family gave their permission and we have been engaged with them. We invited Prince Albert to perform the unveiling, and it was a wonderful surprise to hear he was coming to acknowledge his roots in Co Mayo.”
Roots and reception
Prince Albert’s great-grandfather John H Kelly was born in Drumilra outside Newport in the 19th century. In 1887, he emigrated to Philadelphia, where the family enjoyed considerable business success.
Grace Kelly visited Newport a number of times in the 1960s following her marriage to Prince Rainier III, and her family has maintained those close links to the town. Prince Albert followed in her mother’s footsteps when he visited Newport in 2011 as part of a State visit to Ireland and Mary said the Kelly connection to Newport remains as strong as ever.
“When the late Princess Grace visited her grandfather’s homestead, it was a tremendous acknowledgement… They [the family] have continuously maintained that connect with Newport and their cousins and family relatives. That connection is still there and very strong and it is wonderful,” she said.
Prince Albert is expected to arrive in Newport around midday on Thursday for a public reception on Castlebar Street that will culminate in the unveiling of the statue. If the weather permits, Prince Albert will then spend some time in the town before attending a private reception for invited guests in Hotel Newport.
The statue of Grace Kelly was sculptured by Killasser-based sculptor Mark Rode. It is part of the campaign to market Newport as ‘the town of the two Graces’. A statue in honour of the Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen, will to be unveiled next year at Medlicott Street at the entrance to the town.
Mary explained that they anticipate that the two statues will lead to a boost in tourism and increased in revenue for the town.