It is surely a day that will live long in the memory of the young students of Claddagh National School. After all it is not every day that a duchess comes to visit. As the patron of the UK National Literacy Trust, Camilla travelled to the school to meet children who have taken part in the SUAS literacy programme.
"Dia daoibh,” said the Duchess, making a real effort to perfect her Irish dialect, “Dia ‘s Muire duit!” came the resounding reply from a packed hall of over-excited children and teachers.
School principal Michael Gallagher introduced Camilla to some of the children who currently participate in the SUAS homework club. She also spoke with some of the programme’s sponsors and mentors. It is obvious from the interaction between the duchess and the children that she has a real fondess for the younger generation, who were clearly enthralled by their VIP guest.
Her Royal Highness, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, with Charlotte Elizabeth Curran after she presented her with a bouquet of flowers during her visit to the Claddagh National School.
And no visit to this historic area could be complete without the presence of 'King of the Claddagh', Mike Lynskey. By well-established tradition, the village is governed by a directly-elected king. Historically, his role was to mediate in disputes within the village and lead the fishing fleet into Galway Bay each year. The exact protocol for an English duchess meeting an Irish king had not been established beforehand, but the two hit it off quite well nonetheless.
Michael Gallagher said he was honoured that such a high profile visitor had selected the school as part of a busy itinerary in the city. “We were delighted to extend a true Claddagh School welcome to the Duchess. That she has chosen to visit us is also a very special tribute to the work of both the SUAS Literacy Support Programme and the entire school community here. It is a very proud day for us.”
After a visit to the school’s dedicated art centre – which was opened by Michael D Higgins in 1993 - Camilla was treated to a performance by the school choir. Students from the SUAS programme were then presented with certificates recognising their participation, before the duchess was presented with a beautiful special gift of her own, a Claddagh brooch.
It is very fitting that the royal visit to Galway included a trip to this famous part of the city. It is more than 160 years since Queen Victoria was presented with a Claddagh ring during her visit to Ireland in 1849. Her son, Edward VII, also wore a Claddagh ring.
The engagement ended with a presentation of flowers by Charlotte Elizabeth Curran. As well as sharing a name with Prince Charles’ newborn grand-daughter, it was a very special occasion for the school girl as it happened to be her eighth birthday. A truly memorable day for all those involved.