By Frances Toner
The picturesque town of Newport is rolling out the red carpet in true 1950s Hollywood style this weekend in honour of its most famous daugther - Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco.
Oscar themed parties, screenings of some of iconic blonde beauty’s best loved films, and even a troupe of Grace Kelly lookalikes are all on the cards for the second Grace Kelly Film Festival, which launches tomorrow (Saturday ) and continues with a packed programme of events all weekend.
Newport has long celebrated its Grace Kelly connection and there is nothing tenuous at all about the Oscar winning actress’s links to the west Mayo town.
Her grandfather, John, was born and grew-up in Newport but he left the Mayo homestead - a tiny cottage on a small plot of land at Drimurla - America bound, and full of hope and ambition no doubt, in 1887.
Just like a twist in the plot of one of her movies, almost 75 years later, that poor Irish emigrant’s granddaugther, who by now had graduated from Hollywood royalty to actual royalty as wife of Prince Rainier III of Monaco, would receive a rapturous welcome when she visited her ancestral home and reconnected with her Mayo roots.
Fiona Hopkins is one of the organisers of the Grace Kelly Film Festival.
She said one of the highlights of the festival this year will be the screening of a 15-minute film of previously unseen amateur footage taken during Princess Grace’s visit in 1961.
She said the film will certainly appeal to anyone who was there for the historic occasion and also for their children who have grown up hearing stories about Grace Kelly’s magical time in Mayo.
“I spotted my own father in the film,” said Ms Hopkins. “My dad had told us for years how he met Grace Kelly and he helped her on to a boat at Westport Quay. When I saw him on this film, just like he had described, my heart nearly stopped. It was very moving.”
Princess Grace visited Mayo three times in all - in ‘61, ‘76, and once more in ‘79.
She purchased the Drimurla cottage and planned to turn it into a holiday home. She died in a car accident in the French Riviera in 1982 before these hopes could be realised.
For full details and a programme of events taking place for the Grace Kelly Film Festival, this Saturday and Sunday in Newport, visit www.gracekellyfilmfestival.ie