A Royal Visit to Antrim Castle Gardens
The majestic Antrim Castle Gardens was the perfect setting for a Royal visit today. During a one-day visit to Northern Ireland, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal visited the award-winning gardens to mark The Northern Ireland Centenary.
The Princess Royal was warmly welcomed by her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb MBE JP and Chief Executive of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Mrs Jacqui Dixon.
The welcome party embarked on a tour of the Gardens, where the Mayor presented some of the strands of the Council’s Centenary of Northern Ireland Commemorative programme including the Centenary Collections and Centenary Scripts.
Earlier this year the Council received £94,600 from the Northern Ireland Office Shared History Fund, dispersed by National Lottery Heritage Fund. A £1 million fund for organisations across the UK to deliver inclusive activities to mark the NI Centenary.
Antrim School of Music children’s choir added to the ambience as the group made their way through the Parterre Gardens before The Princess Royal was introduced to a number of Council staff who worked continuously providing essential services during the pandemic.
A special performance from ‘Carson and The Lady’ by local playwright Michael Cameron, the story of Lady Massereene and Lord Carson, entertained the group.
The party then moved to the Courtyard where a group of local school children from Glengormley Integrated Primary school had great pleasure in showing their Alien’s Guide to Northern Ireland, a project in which all local primary schools in the Borough were invited to participate.
To conclude the visit to the 400 year old historical gem, The Princess Royal presented volunteer group Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens with their Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which they had been awarded earlier in the month. Equivalent to an MBE, this award is the highest form of civic recognition that can be granted to a voluntary group and acknowledges the outstanding work of the volunteers. A recent announcement from Buckingham Palace named Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens as one of fifteen recipients from Northern Ireland to receive this award.
The volunteer group were delighted to be able to chat with the Princess and tell Her Royal Highness more about their volunteering role within the Gardens.
The Princess then unveiled a plaque marking her visit and to commemorate the Centenary of Northern Ireland.
Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of County Antrim, Mr David McCorkell, said:
“It is always a privilege for me to welcome a member of the Royal Family to the Borough and to showcase this stunning example of natural and built heritage today was extra special. The Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens are worthy recipients of the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and I am thrilled to have been part of this presentation.”
Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb said:
“I am delighted that we have been able to show off the jewel in our crown to a member of the Royal Family. Antrim Castle Gardens has been a place of solace for many people during the pandemic and has seen huge number of visitors over the last year.
“The Friends of Antrim Castle Gardens have worked tirelessly to keep the Gardens looking beautiful and the presentation of their Queen’s Award by the Princess Royal is a fitting tribute to their continuous commitment and dedicated service.
“It was also great that we could recognise a number of our frontline council staff who worked throughout the pandemic to ensure the Council provided essential services to our communities”