An Irish fishmonger who became pen pals with Queen Elizabeth after making her laugh during a visit to Cork’s English Market has revealed what he gave her as a jubilee gift.
Pat O’Connell had the Queen in hysterics when the British monarch made an official visit to Ireland in 2011.
She was particularly amused by an ugly monkfish on his stall which he had labelled ‘mother-in-law fish’.
He was later invited to Buckingham Palace in 2014 where he once again came face to face with the Queen.
When the Queen, and Prince Philip, visited Ireland in 2011, it was the first time a reigning British monarch had made an official visit since Ireland became independent from the UK.
While there had been fears the visit could cause trouble, it was a huge success and helped to strengthen Ireland’s relationship with its neighbour.
O’Connell added: “The human face of the monarchy was very much shown.
“We had a laugh and a great conversation with them. That was the whole human side of it.
“I think she just wanted to be an ordinary woman for a few hours. And she enjoyed the fun and she enjoyed the banter.
“People said I made her laugh but I’m sure I would do the same with any other customer really. She seemed to get a great kick out of it.”
O’Connell was such a hit with the Queen that the British Ambassador Julian King visited the English Market a couple of months later to speak with him.
King praised the fishmonger for being himself around the Queen and said that was why he had made such an impression on her.
O’Connell explained: “Julian King was down in Cork about six or seven weeks later and he called in.
“He said, ‘Jaysus lads, this day has really rocked her’. And I said we only did what we always do.
“Julian said in many ways that was the secret, because most people, when they meet the Queen, don’t do what they normally do.
“And he said she just got such a kick out of the fun, the banter and the cheekiness. He said it is one of those visits that she remembers.
“She just got a great buzz out of it. And we weren’t afraid to give a slagging just because she was the Queen.”
O’Connell said that he sent a ‘special package’ to the Queen as a gift for her Platinum Jubilee.
He said: “I will send something. And it will be to do with Cork.
“Some fabulous photographs, obviously taken by professional photographers. It doesn’t cost anything to be nice.
“In the market we meet people from every walk of life and 99.9 per cent of them are nice.
“You get the odd one that isn’t, but she is definitely in the 99.9 per cent.”
O’Connell acknowledged that as an Irishman, it may seem a little strange that he has befriended the Queen of England but added that they had made a ‘good auld connection’ when they met and spoke of his admiration for her.
He said: “My passport is green but she is a fabulous lady with an amazing history.
“She is so much a part of history. I mean how many Prime Ministers has she gone through?
“And how many heads of state has she met? She’s been the constant in English life. I found her to be a lovely person, I’ll be honest about it, and she was very interested in Cork and the English Market and the history of it. She is just a really nice woman.
“We made a good auld connection. We had a good bit of fun on the day of her visit, and I think it was good for Cork city. And we still send letters to this day.”
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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling