By Dorothea Depner, Exhibition Organiser
Not long after we launched Grace: Photographs, 1955–1969 something intriguing happened: several people got in touch to share with us their memories and personal mementoes of Princess Grace’s visits to Ireland in 1961 and 1965. Their stories are special and we would like to share them with you here on our blog.
Philip Maddock recalled the splendid Bal des Petits Lits Blancs, the French hospital charity ball that came to Powerscourt House in July 1965 and was opened by Princess Grace. It was a high society event attended by 178 French and 500 Irish guests and made the news as far afield as the United States.
The Chicago Tribune called it ‘the grandest and certainly the giddiest ball that the Irish have held in years’, and there may well have been more Irish guests than tickets sold. In fact, Philip himself had crashed the party. As luck would have it, when a power outage occurred during the ball he turned out to be the only one present who happened to have a flashlight with him, and so the honour of escorting the Princess down a tricky flight of stairs fell to him. Carrying the torch for her (literally), he distinctly remembers feeling terrified of being discovered as a party crasher. He is the young man beside Princess Grace to the left in the photo below.
Kate Edgar, whose father Sam had been on the ball’s organising committee, sent us pictures of the programme, as well as pictures of Princess Grace with her father.
Breda Connors’ (née Doyle) memories date back further, to Princess Grace’s visit to the Crumlin Children’s Hospital in June 1961. Breda was a staff nurse there at the time and her memories are still very vivid of what was a truly memorable day:
“Many important visitors came to Crumlin Hospital as it was the newest children’s hospital in Dublin at that time, opened 1956. Princess Grace was the Patron of Crumlin Children’s Hospital. Now, we could request to go in the guard of honour, which I did. I was second on the left as she got out of the car. It was an exciting day, we wore white gloves and white shoes; normally we wore black shoes, flat not heels.
There were about 400 boxes of Blossom Time Chocolates given from Princess Grace; I was more interested in the card that came with the box, which I made sure to keep, as you will see.
I treasure all of these photographs and have kept them in a photo album all these years.”
These photos cover several pages in Breda’s precious green photo album and show the elegantly turned out nurses forming a guard of honour for a radiant Princess Grace. Breda was the second to the left as Princess Grace exited the car (she is marked with an X in the photo).
Evidently, even the weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of everybody present!
Breda’s lovingly arranged album also includes pictures of the children who were in the ward at the time of the visit, although it is doubtful the little baby boy in the photo below remembers much of the occasion. His mother, however, certainly will have treasured the memory.
This week, Breda and her friends Ann, Geraldine and Yvonne came to visit the exhibition themselves and tremendously enjoyed their day out in Castletown.
Among the 124 original vintage photographs they discovered one of Princess Grace at the Crumlin Children’s Hospital they had not seen before.
Perhaps you, too, have a special souvenir or memory of Princess Grace’s visits to Ireland in the 1960s and 70s or know of someone who does? Why not share them with us on Facebook or Instagram, using #PrincessGracePhotographs and tagging @castletownhouse in your post. On Twitter you can tag us @opwcastletown.
Grace: Photographs, 1955–1969 runs until the end of September in Castletown House and is open daily. We also have a number of events associated with the exhibition in the coming weeks: this Saturday, 19 August, artist Emma O’Toole will run two workshops for children and young teenagers, showing them how to make their own pinhole camera and how to create a film storyboard. If you want to find out how to recreate the Grace Kelly look, make sure to book your ticket for the session with expert stylist Natalie Svikle of Kildare Village on 2 September. On the same day, photo-historian Orlagh Fitzpatrick will examine photographs and film footage of Grace Kelly’s State visit to Ireland in 1961. Her talk will touch on themes surrounding Irish fashion, culture and royal visits. Finally, on 10 September, we have invited Irish couturier Peter O’Brien and fashion editor Deirdre McQuillan to share with us the secrets of timeless style and style icons. We hope to see many of you there!