The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive in Northern Ireland


Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall began their four day tour of Northern Ireland and Ireland today in Bellaghy, Northern Ireland.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visit Seamus Heaney HomePlace
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall visit Seamus Heaney HomePlace

The day began with a visit to the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, a museum dedicated to the late Nobel Poet Laureate located in the area that inspired much of his writing. At the HomePlace Their Royal Highnesses met Brian McCormick, Heaney's nephew and manager of HomePlace, Heaney's widow Marie and the writer's brother, Hugh.

Before departing, The Prince and The Duchess were treated to live performances of some of the writer's most famous works. This included an excerpt of The Burial at Thebes performed by students from Rainey Endowed School.

Speaking at the event His Royal Highness stressed the importance of art and literature in maintaining international bonds, saying, "Our varied histories, voices, and traditions can create all the greater harmony when they come together. After all it is differences that make harmony possible, even as it is the barriers that have been overcome to make friendship all the stronger."  

His Royal Highness previously made a special recording of Heaney's The Shipping Forecast for BBC Radio 4's Today Programme to celebrate National Poetry Day in 2016.

The day continued at Altnagelvin Hospital where Their Royal Highnesses opened the North West Cancer Centre and unveiled a plaque to commemorate the event. Staff and patients were delighted to meet The Prince and The Duchess and welcome Their Royal Highnesses to the state of the art facility. Altnagelvin Hospital regularly treats patients from across the border in the Republic of Ireland, as well as from the country's own North Western region. 

Their Royal Highnesses spent the evening at Hillsborough Castle for a special concert hosted by BBC Radio 3's Sean Rafferty. Over one hundred guests joined The Prince and The Duchess to hear the world premiere of Neil Martin's Songs After Rain, a piece commissioned by His Royal Highness which sets to music words by poets in English, Irish and Ulster Scots, as a means of celebrating different cultural traditions.

Speaking about the piece His Royal Highness explained the work's title, "It seems - actually I know it's true from my own garden - it is after the rain that the blackbird's song is sweetest. This part of the world has seen more than its fair share of rain, in every sense; I can only pray that the songs which follow will be all the sweeter for that."