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Royal Visit to Ards and North Down

Collage of images Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at Bangor Market and Donaghadee Harbour

Date: Wednesday 19 May 2021
 
On day two of their visit to Northern Ireland, Their Royal Highnesses, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, travelled to Ards and North Down.  
 
The Royal couple’s first stop was at Bangor Market, part of the town’s retail offering since 1605. The weekly market regularly features around 40 traders who offer a range of products including locally sourced fish, beef, fruit and veg, cheese and baked goods.  
 
The market has operated, as restrictions have allowed, throughout the COVID pandemic. The growing number of staff and visitors in recent weeks are a colourful and very welcome reminder that the town is taking positive steps forward on its recovery journey.
 
The Prince and The Duchess chatted to a number of stallholders and took the opportunity to sample some produce as part of their tour with the Lord Lieutenant of County Down, David Lindsay, and Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings.
 
The Prince of Wales then journeyed to Donaghadee to visit the Harbour, which on 1 August 2021 will celebrate its bicentenary (200 years).  
 
Donaghadee boasts a rich maritime history. From the Mail Packet Service to Portpatrick and the hustle and bustle of merchant ships, to the heroic endeavors of the lifeboat station and day trips for holiday makers, the Harbour has long been the beating heart of the coastal town.
 
It is hardly surprising then it became a focus for the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Harbour steps currently boast hundreds of painted stones with ‘Stay Safe’ and community messaging that have been placed over the past year.
 
The Prince was able to view the stones and spoke to some residents who had painted contributions. He also met volunteers from local group, Here to Help, which delivered vital practical support to the elderly, the vulnerable, the self-isolating and those in financial difficulty during the lockdown period.
 
He then spoke to local historians, Dr Robert Neill and Tom Neill of Donaghadee Local History Forum, to learn more about the 200-year heritage of the Harbour; and to John Caldwell, Chair of Donaghadee Community Development Association, who shared some of the plans for the bicentenary celebration weekend in August.
 
He also met members of the local lifeboat crew, led by Donaghadee Lifeboat Coxswain Philip McNamara.   
 
The Prince then unveiled a plaque marking his visit to Donaghadee to commemorate the bicentenary.  
 
The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Trevor Cummings, commented: 
 
“It has been a very exciting morning. The Royal couple’s visit to Bangor Market has come at the perfect time as the lifting of COVID restrictions is encouraging more visitors to this weekly retail event. It was a real boost to the spirits of our superb traders, who have had their struggles during the pandemic. They appreciated this visit as a reminder that we really are moving forward on the road to recovery.
 
“The Prince then paid a visit to Donaghadee Harbour, which will celebrate a very significant anniversary this year – its 200th birthday. The Prince’s visit is a very fitting ‘launch’ to the programme of celebration activities that will run from June to the anniversary weekend at the start of August. We are delighted he was able to see our iconic Harbour in sunshine and without being buffeted by the breezes the coastal town is known for!”
 
Market trader Maurice McClean, owner of Olive Tree Bakes, said:
 
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet The Duchess of Cornwall. She took the time to speak with me about my products and asked how my business started. She even said she would have liked to purchase some of my stock. This is a very exciting day for Bangor Market!”
 
John Caldwell, Honorary Secretary of the Donaghadee Community Development Association and a member of the Town Advisory Group, said:
 
"We are delighted to welcome Prince Charles to our historic town and its iconic Harbour, which will be celebrating its bicentenary later this summer. Donaghadee people are, quite rightly, very proud of our Harbour which has received many famous visitors over the years but today's visit trumps the lot.”