A former Miss Ireland and Moate native is celebrating a personal letter of thanks from President Barack Obama for the gift of a painting he received following his Irish trip.
Model and actress turned painter Nuala Holloway is one of many artists and craftspeople who offered gifts to the American Embassy when news broke of President Obama’s planned visit to Ireland last year.
Her delight when her painting of the famine ship Jeanie Johnston was selected by the embassy was only surpassed when recently the most powerful man in the world personally wrote to her, thanking her.
Ms Holloway said the phone call asking her if she could be at home to accept a parcel from the White House was a bolt from the blue.
“The letter was beautifully wrapped and I was just delighted,” she said, adding that she feels honoured that the letter was personally signed by Mr Obama.
“It’s thrilling to think his hand was on this page,” she said, of the official letter she has framed for posterity.
When she has time, she plans to investigate the possibility that she and Mr Obama might have an even closer connection.
That the president’s great-great-great grandfather Falmouth Kearney hailed from Moneygall in county Offaly has made international news.
But a less well-known fact is that Falmouth Kearney’s wife, Charlotte Holloway hails from the south of England, where Ms Holloway says her family roots are.
“It will take time, but sometime I will look into the family tree,” said Ms Holloway.
She painted the Jeanie Johnston, sails at half-mast in Dun Laoghaire Harbour with the president in mind and she admired his positivity and his bravery before he was elected.
Ms Holloway represented Ireland in the Miss International Beauty pageant in Japan in 1975, went on to act with Sean Connery in The Great Train Robbery, and has since gained a degree in Irish in UCD and teaches full-time at St Killian’s German school in Dublin.
While she’s passionate about Irish and teaching, she said painting is “like eating, sleeping and breathing.”
Now the mother of two adult sons, Ms Holloway had intended to pursue a career in art after finishing school in Moate, County Westmeath where she was born.
However, while on her way to art college in Cork she was stopped by a photographer who suggested she send some pictures to a modelling agency, beginning a career that took her in front of the camera.
Largely self-taught, she studies art in Florence each summer and paints at the studio at her home in Blackrock, Dublin.
Her website is www.nualaholloway.com