Heard an amusing story at dinner the other evening that could only be true.

Back in the 1960s Princess Margaret and Tony Armstrong Jones came over to Ireland on a private visit. One of the places they stayed was with relatives at a Castle near Offaly. The madam of which (according to my elderly dinner companion), on hearing the news of their imminent arrival, ‘was running about like the Queen Mother of Ireland’. Wishing to make an impression she got the workmen to quickly jolly the place up. Feeling that the main bedroom wasn’t quite up to scratch, new wallpaper was hung over the mould. And while they were at it the ceiling was papered too. The young royal couple arrived and were shown to their room. Unfortunately, from what I can gather, nothing was ever good enough for poor Princess Margaret. The dinner conversation was stilted, she really didn’t want to be there, and soon they retired early to bed.

Feeling deflated, and trying to make amends, the lady of the castle decided, in their honour, to turn the heat on full blast. The rarely used Victorian Cast Iron Radiators creaked as they glowed in the night. Next morning HRH arrived down for breakfast with her suitcase in hand. Eyebrows were raised but nothing said as she silently stood waiting for her companion. He wouldn’t stand for the rudeness and sat for his breakfast. She, reluctantly, did the same.

It was soon discovered after they had left that the extreme heat from the radiators had caused the newly applied wallpaper glue to melt from the damp castle walls. It was, for all the wrong reasons, a sweat filled night. The young couple awoke mummified in a room resembling a steaming wallpaper factory.

After this they then unexpectedly drove over to my dinner companion’s castle. He simply didn’t know what to do with them. The only thing he could think of was to drive them across a field to show them some Rhododendrons he was quite proud of – I ask you? Anyhow, after he stopped the car he walked around to open the door for Princess Margaret. As he stood there waiting for her to alight she reached out and slammed the door shut again! Mouth agape and at a complete loss he just stood there. He simply didn’t know what to do. The minutes passed as a muffled argument ensued inside the car. Eventually Tony Armstrong Jones gets out, walks across to her door, opens it and insists that she not be so rude and then walks her over to see the Rhododendrons. There they stood for a full minute looking across an empty field and then left, without staying for tea.

Damien Matthews


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