Earlier this year, two students of Erne Integrated College took part in very different but momentous cultural and religious events, which will go to shape their personal histories. Here, Adam Smith writes about his experience at the Royal Wedding and Hannah Irvine records her visit to see Pope Francis celebrate mass in The Phoenix Park.
The Royal Wedding 19 May 2018
I was invited as one of the 1200 nominated members of the public to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday 19 May 2018. The wedding took place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, Windsor. I was nominated to receive an invite by Lord Alan Brookeborough, in recognition of my scouting achievements and volunteering. I had met him on his visit to Castle Saunderson International Scout Centre when I had been volunteering the previous summer. As the dress code for the wedding included the wearing of a uniform, I therefore wore my scout uniform as this was the reason why I had been nominated.
On the morning of the wedding, we had to check in at Windsor Castle at 8 am. Outside the castle gates in the town of Windsor, large crowds were gathered and were lining the streets. The crowds had flags and were waving them and at the gates, there was a large gathering of photographers and television crews. There was a long queue of guests going through the gates and then we had to go through security. The queue moved very quickly as everything was very well organised and there was a large security presence. We had to show our invites and our photographic ID. We were given a gift bag as a souvenir, containing a bottle of water, some shortbread, a chocolate coin, fridge magnet and a souvenir booklet. Then we were allowed entry to the grounds of Windsor Castle.
It was an extremely hot day and we found a great spot to stand near the wall of the Castle just outside the Chapel. All the celebrity guests and Royal Family had to walk past us on their way into the Chapel. We saw celebrities such as David and Victoria Beckham, George Clooney and we also saw the members of the Royal Family arrive including the Her Royal Highness The Queen and Prince Philip. Prince Harry and Prince William walked past us smiling and were dressed in their military uniforms. Just before 12 o’clock Meghan Markle arrived with her mother by car and we watched them walk up the steps of the Chapel. The crowd outside the Chapel were cheering when she arrived.
This was a great experience for me to see all these celebrities and the Royal Family. I had only ever seen them on television previously. The wedding was shown on large screens that were placed at various places throughout the grounds of the Castle so that everyone could watch events. It was a beautiful ceremony and we all loved it. There was such a happy atmosphere and everyone cheered when Prince Harry and Meghan were officially married. As they were on the steps of the Chapel after the ceremony was over, we watched the two of them kiss and then they got into an open-topped horse-drawn carriage. They were accompanied by the Queen’s Household Cavalry as they set off on a carriage tour around the town of Windsor.
After Prince Harry and Meghan had left, we watched the celebrities and the Royal Family leave the Chapel. We were then allowed to tour the church. It is a beautiful building and the flowers that decorated the chapel were amazing. We also did a tour of the grounds of the Castle and the gardens were very impressive, with beautiful flowers and plants.
I will never ever forget the day I had at the Royal wedding. I feel so honoured, privileged and proud to have been nominated and to have been part of their Special Day.
Adam Smith 10BK
My Visit to see Pope Francis in Phoenix Park
Sunday 26th of August was a very special day for me because that was the day that I went to see Pope Francis in the Phoenix Park in Dublin. It was a long, long day but a once-in-a-lifetime event and one that I just couldn't miss. I went with my Mum, my Auntie and my Granny - so it was a sort of a “holy” girls' day out.
We had a very early start as we had to meet with the other members of the parish to catch the chartered bus to Dublin at 8 am. Of course there was all of the necessary preparations before hand - it was like a military operation and the women in my family, well they really know how to plan things.
I slept for most of the journey and before long were in Dublin and the bus dropped us off at the docks. We then got the shuttle bus to take us closer the Phoenix Park, we had to get in line to get on to the shuttle bus and there were throngs of people. Unfortunately, we were at the back of the line and it took over an hour before we got onto the connection bus. Through the city we went, all of the streets were closed off and it was eerily silent going through the normally bustling roads and avenues.
Finally, we got off the shuttle bus but we still had a long way to go (7 Kilometres according to my Mum's Fitbit). When we got to Island Bridge Road and the road was just crammed with pilgrims – it’s hard to get across just how many people were there, but you literally couldn’t move. We finally made it to Phoenix Park and there was a real carnival atmosphere. We had to queue up again to get through security, but everyone was happy, chatting and laughing and joking. When we got to our sector, we sat on our cardboard chairs and ate lunch. There were large screens up and we could see everything going on onstage. Daniel O'Donnell was singing (if you like that sort of thing) and there were lots of choirs and other forms of entertainment. As I looked around me I saw people of all shapes and sizes, different nationalities; African, American, Swedish, French and Mexican. From babies in push chairs to really old people who could hardly walk to teenagers in wheelchairs - all there to see the Holy Father.
Shortly before 3pm Pope Francis arrived and the hundreds of thousands of visitors there were very excited. He toured through the audience in his pope-mobile and reached out to people. He then climbed the vibrant crimson carpet and took his place on the huge altar. He was surrounded by Cardinals and priests and the altar was huge, as well as the vivid red carpet there was a huge crucifix which glistened in the sun. The mass was mostly spoken in Italian, but the pope tried to celebrate some of it in English. The choir which sung was heavenly and their harmonies were beautiful to hear, this added so much to the atmosphere. I was so happy to be there with the women of my family.
When it was all over we made the long journey back to Fermanagh. We didn't arrive home until 1.00 am. Even though it was a long day, to me it was very special. Its 39 years since the Pope's last visit to Ireland and who knows when he'll make it back here! This is a day that I will always treasure and I know I will look back at it in the future as a very important day in my life.
Hannah Irvine 9CF