I love old Hollywood films but I never thought I would be writing about one of my favourite actresses Grace Kelly and one of my favourite pilgrim sites Croagh Patrick in the same blog post. Grace was born on the 12 November 1929, as her surname would suggest she was of Irish decent. Grace had a short but successful film career staring in some classic films like High Noon and Dial M for Murder. She retired at the age of 26 when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco.
In 1961 Princess Grace and her husband Prince Rainier came to Ireland. During the trip they travelled to Co Mayo, visiting the family home place of Grace’s grandfather John Peter Kelly in the townland of Drimurla, who left Ireland in 1887 for America. At the time of the visit the Kelly homestead was in the ownership of a lady known as the Widow Mulchrone. According to the Mayo News
For weeks preparations had been made for the special royal visit of June 15 1961. The roof was newly thatched, the hedges cut and the pathway sanded. Dressed in black, and wearing her finest apron, the widow had spent the morning baking griddle cakes and polishing the glassware and good china. Up in “the good room”, which doubled up as the widow’s bedroom, she set the tables with six cups and saucers and bedecked it with a selection of cakes and soda bread. Back in the kitchen a big black kettle hung boiling and hissing over the open fire. According to lore, the widow regaled the royal visitors with stories and, at one point, ordered an on-duty policeman to “wet another cup of tay, the prince could murder another drop”. She even recited a special poem to mark the occasion, which she dubbed the most important day of her life.
During her time in Mayo the princess also made a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, as many of her ancestor had done before her. Wearing a two piece suit, sun glasses and glamorous headscarf, Princess Grace was one of the most elegant and stylish pilgrims to ever visit the holy mountain. The photos and film footage of the visit show her wearing flat shoes and carrying a blackthorn walking stick. Looking every inch the Hollywood star she walked along the laneway which leads from the modern car park to the statue of St Patrick at the base of the mountain. The royal couple was followed by photographers, curious local people and members of the garda síochána. One can only imagine the excitement of people who lived in the area.
The princess didn’t climb to the summit of Croagh Patrick but she prayed before the statue of St Patrick which stands at the mountain’s base. There is fantastic film footage of the event available on the British Pathé website (the link is below in references).
Princess Grace’s visited Ireland on two other occasions but the this first visit is still remembered fondly in Co Mayo.
Ryan, A. 2010. ‘Fairtale Princess Grace dreamed of Mayo Roots’, http://www.mayonews.ie/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=12325:fairytale-princess-grace-dreamed-of-mayo-roots&catid=3:news-features&Itemid=29
No mean feat to get that far in a straight skirt and with a handbag!