On arrival at George Best City Airport, he was greeted by Mrs Fionnuala Jay O’Boyle CBE, the new Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, before making his way to Downpatrick for a number of engagements.
The St Patrick Centre was the first port of call for the Royal visitor. Dr Tim Campbell, Director, conducted a short overview of the Centre, before inviting HRH to walk through the interactive journey based on Saint Patrick’s own writings. He also had the opportunity to view a film presentation depicting a virtual flight across Ireland, as well as viewing the exhibition by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency outlining the role of the Centre and how it encourages visitors to see the local sites associated with St Patrick.
After an informal lunch with members of the local community and tourism representatives, the Earl made the short walk to Down Cathedral where he was greeted by Dean Hull who conducted a short overview of the symbolic building and the history and features within the Cathedral.
One of the most striking features of the Cathedral is the pulpitum, which is topped by the magnificent organ whose pipes reach almost to the vaulted roof – something which is unique in the whole of Ireland. Michael McCracken, Down Cathedral Organist, played a fanfare by Jacques Lemmas during the short visit.
The Royal visitor was invited to sign the visitors’ book before moving to the churchyard where he viewed the granite stone marking the burial place of St Patrick.
Next port of call for HRH was a visit to Downpatrick & County Down Railway Museum, located in the centre of Downpatrick. William Gillespie, Vice President, and John Wilson, Chairman of Downpatrick & Co Down Railway, welcomed the Royal visitor and gave a short history of the organisation and the facilities.
The Earl of Wessex proceeded to the Workshop and Museum where he had the opportunity to meet with members and volunteers of the Railway Society who provided the Royal visitor with an overview of the current carriage restoration projects, as well as inviting HRH to view a number of the gallery exhibits, including the ‘Royal Saloon’.
Before departing the museum, HRH was invited to unveil a plaque to commemorate the official opening of the Carriage Viewing Gallery.
His Royal Highness departed the Museum’s station platform on board a restored steam train for the short journey to Inch Abbey.