The visit of the British ambassador Julian King and the Duke of Abercorn James Hamilton to Kilkenny this week has left locals speculating about whether their positive reports of the city and county, might encourage a royal visit from Queen Elizabeth when she comes to Ireland.
The Duke whose seat was at Baronscourt, near Newtownstewart in Co Tyrone, was lord steward of the royal household and the queen’s personal advisor at ceremonial events. He has retired since last year.
He did not say whether or not a visit to Kilkenny would be on the cards, however, he did say that she might take in one of Ireland’s prominent stud farms.
Meanwhile it was very clear from the speech of the ambassador at a special reception at City Hall on Tuesday morning that he held a soft spot for the Marble City which he said ‘had a strong sense of history and heritage.’
The visit was a private event organised by Paul Smithwick, of the Smithwick brewing family.
“The Duke was very taken with Kilkenny as was the ambassador. I think they very much enjoyed their time spent here and they had a great day at the Castle, in Rothe House and at the Watergarden in Thomastown,” he enthused.
The men were also treated to a dinner hosted by Mr Smithwick himself at his home at Mount Juliet in Thomastown on Monday night. There were 28 invited guests and they included mayor Martin Brett, county manager Joe Crockett, Lord and Lady Rathdonnelll from Carlow, chief superintendent Mick McGarry, hurler Noel Skehan and Peter Gleeson, former Smurfit Group director.
The meal was almost a non-event as it came from Dublin and was locked into the boot of a car, however a security man came to the rescue and dinner was soon served!
“I have to thank the city of Kilkenny — you’ve been excellent hosts in the highest tradition of hospitality. I shall remember forever, the warmth and charm that covered my day in Kilkenny on Monday.
“I knew something of the culture and heritage of Kilkenny but I wasn’t aware of the warmth and friendliness that went with that. There is no cold stone in Kilkenny - they are all warm and I now understand what Francis Mc Manus was talking about. There is some flavour to Kilkenny that I have been privileged to get a glimpse of. This was my first visit and will not be my last. The mayor has invited me back to have a game of golf and may take him up on that offer when I return with my wife. For me Kilkenny is one of the capitals of tourism in Ireland,” he said.
He also complimented Paul Smithwick for organising the event and who was a perfect host.
Mayor Martin Brett also welcomed the ambassador to the chamber and the city and introduced him to the old artifacts representing the mayoralty and the city charters.
“It means a lot to us that you are here and we welcome someone of your stature — it is an immense privilege to have you in Kilkenny. Let this not be your last visit,” he added.
Mayor Brett presented Mr King with a plate made by Nicolas Mosse as a memory of his trip.