Prince Charles visits Classiebawn Castle and Mullaghmore
On Wednesday 21 May 2015, during an official visit to Ireland, their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall paid a private visit to Classiebawn Castle, the former home of Lord Mountbatten. They were accompanied by Timothy and Isabella Knatchbull. A warm reception greeted them in nearby Mullaghmore where they met people closely associated with Lord Mountbatten and the events of 1979. During an extraordinary visit the Prince of Wales spoke of the past and its victims of violence, ‘Through this dreadful experience … now I understand in a profound way the agonies borne by so many others in these islands of whatever faith, denomination or political tradition’. He also spoke of reconciliation and the need to look forward to a peaceful future.
Prince Charles speaks about the soul-destroying anguish of losing his uncle, Lord Mountbatten.
The following article, written by Emma Gallagher, was published in the Sligo Champion on November 8, 2014.
Prince Charles was visiting the Columbian capital of Bogota to meet families of victims of the country’s bloody war and made a passionate speech during a visit to the Centre for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation. The Royal described the emotional devastation he felt following his uncle’s murder in Mullaghmore in August 1979. He said that he looked upon Mountbatten as a ‘second father and mentor’.
Prince Charles was joined by his wife, Camilla, on the four-day visit. When he addressed the victims of Columbia’s 50-year civil war, he said that he understood the anguish that many of them had experienced.
Charles was extremely close to his uncle, who died following a bomb explosion on his fishing boat off the Mullaghmore coast. Among the victims was Mountbatten’s twin grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, 14, local boat boy, Paul Maxwell, 15, and Dowager Lady Brabourne, 82, who died in hospital the next day. The bomb had earlier been planted by the Provisional IRA ahead of the fishing trip.
Prince Charles said to the audience: “I suspect that many of you will probably not know that my own much-loved great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, and members of his family including one of my godsons were murdered in Ireland just over thirty years ago. So I feel I do understand something of the bewildering and soul-destroying anguish that so many of you have had to endure.”
He also spoke about the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and how it had impacted in a positive way. He said: “Great political and moral leadership is required from all parties to the conflict and from society at large, which must also strongly feel the need for truth, reconciliation and forgiveness.” He added that as one who has himself experienced the intense despair caused by violence, he hoped Columbia would find peace.
30th anniversary of the Mountbatten Institute
In London in October 2014, a Gala Dinner was held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Mountbatten Institute. The Institute promotes education through student exchange and MBA students from over 35 nations have furthered their international education and practical work training in London, New York and Bangkok. The Institute was named after Lord Louis Mountbatten and his daughter, Patricia, has been Patron since its foundation. In a letter to the guests, she congratulated all “Alumni who had the courage and fortitude to leave home and explore new vistas and, in doing so, have reaped substantial personal rewards. All of you, truly, represent the spirit of Mountbatten.”
An ecumenical service was held at Mullaghmore Head on the west coast of Ireland to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Lord Mountbatten, his grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, the Dowager Lady Brabourne and local lad, Paul Maxwell. Led by the Reverend Ian Linton and Father Christy McHugh, 40 people observed a minute’s silence. Amongst them was Paul’s father, John Maxwell, who described the service as ‘bitter sweet’.
Inspiring beyond words
On Thursday 10 October 2013, Timothy Knatchbull was invited to speak at Godolphin School in Wiltshire as part of their ‘Inspiring People’ series. Over 130 pupils, parents, staff and school governors filled the hall to capacity. ‘masterful, extremely moving… indeed inspirational’ and ‘inspiring beyond words’ were just some of the responses to his presentation
By the Seaside a poem by Larry Stapleton
Larry Stapleton was born in Sligo and visited Mullaghmore for family day trips in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Touched by the humanity and honesty in From a Clear Blue Sky he wrote By the Seaside and submitted it to Poetry Ireland Review which publishes the work of both emerging and established Irish and international poets.
We were as carefree as skylarks….
– Timothy Knatchbull, From a Clear Blue Sky (2009)
Only skylarks watched down when we came to picnic
among the marram dunes on a summer’s day,
out from Sligo town in the Ford Prefect -
my father, mother, grandmother, sisters and I.
Not so when, years later, a tall, elderly man
paddled the low tide pools with his bucket and net,
and on his way back from the harbour to Classiebawn,
stopped to talk to the boy who looked after his boat.
Not so when, the next day – with his twin grandsons, their parents
and grandmother, who just as he did, needed help
going down the ladder and across a boat – they boarded
taking with them the dachshund and a picnic for the trip.
Not so when, with everyone settled on Shadow V,
He took the helm and opened the throttle wide.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the editor of Poetry Ireland Review, Issue 108, where this poem first appeared in December 2012.
The IRA killed my Grandfather, but I’m glad the Queen met their man.
The following article, written by Timothy Knatchbull, was published in the Sunday Telegraph on July 1, 2012.
Martin McGuinness is widely recognised as having been chief of staff of the IRA, an organisation that killed 1,778 people, making it by far the most lethal group in the conflict we euphemistically call the Troubles. Last Wednesday, he met the Queen as her deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. Some Irish nationalists were disgusted. So were some Brits. Not this one. We should be grateful to them both – to her for having remained steadfast, to him for having changed.
The Queen was shaking the hand of the man said to have authorised the killing of 79-year-old Lord Louis Mountbatten, my grandfather. He was the best of grandparents, warm, loving, devoted. I called him Grandpapa; “Timothy Titus, Please Don’t Bite Us” was the nonsensical catchphrase he invented for me. There always seemed to be laughter and fun around him.
The Queen loved him very much, too, as someone who had been at the heart of her family from before her birth, as well as at the heart of Britain’s Armed Forces, the end of empire and the birth of the Commonwealth. He was godson to Queen Victoria, Uncle Dickie to Prince Philip, honorary grandfather to Prince Charles and Shop Steward to most of Europe’s royalty.
The bomb that killed him had been hidden under the floorboards of his rickety old fishing boat, Shadow V. It was detonated by remote control soon after we put to sea to check our lobster pots near Mullaghmore in County Sligo, Ireland. The explosion at 11.46am on August 27 1979 killed my grandfather, who was at the helm three feet from me; Nicky, my 14-year-old identical twin and complete soulmate; and Paul Maxwell. Paul was an Irish schoolboy we had befriended in Mullaghmore that summer and who was earning pocket money helping out on the boat. That day, he was wearing a pair of jeans he had borrowed from a friend of his sister Donna, and had been taking great care not to get them dirty.
My parents and I survived the blast, and initially, cruelly, so did my grandmother Doreen Brabourne. She was a gloriously serene lady of Irish extraction who had lived through the Troubles at the beginning of the century. Shortly before detonation, she turned to my mother, both of them with their legs up in front of them in the warm sunshine, and said: “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”
The Queen was on holiday at Balmoral that day, the August Bank Holiday. The first she heard was that my grandfather had died instantly, as had Nicky and Paul. Years later, she told me how her feelings had risen as more and more details reached her. My mother, to whom she had been a bridesmaid, and who is godmother to Prince Charles, was in intensive care, connected to a machine that breathed for her. She was not expected to live. Her face was unrecognisable, held together by 117 stitches, 20 in each eye. I was in a bed opposite with wounds from head to toe. Surgical tubes led into my body. In a ward nearby lay my father, his legs twisted and broken and multiple wounds all over him. Between the three survivors, we had three functioning eyes and no working eardrums.
In the boat that rescued her, and later in intensive care, Granny told those helping her: “Never mind me, just look after the children.” They did their utmost, but at 8.57 the next morning she died in the bed beside mine. She was 83. God bless the Queen and Prince Philip for shaking Mr McGuinness’s hand last week.
Within hours of the bombing, the Queen had despatched Northern Ireland’s foremost heart doctor to be at my father’s side. My father had undergone heart surgery a few years before and she wanted to ensure no stone was left unturned to support the work of the Irish doctors and nurses in Sligo who were quite literally saving our lives.
Within two weeks, I was strong enough to leave hospital in London, and within two months my parents followed, still desperately incapacitated and therefore unable to look after me themselves. The Queen quickly invited me to Balmoral, one mother stepping in for another. I have never forgotten her care, nor her motherliness.
Nor have I forgotten Nicky. I have healed from the devastating blow of his death, and found a path to forgiveness and peace. That has allowed me to move on, to cherish life, my inspiring wife Isabella and our five young children. Last weekend, we were watching the news when pictures of Grandpapa, Nicky and me playing on the beach in Ireland came on. I looked at my children, and they looked at me. They blinked. I said: “Yes, that’s Uncle Nicky.” The next moment, Martin McGuinness was on the screen.
The following day, I went out to walk the dogs. I stopped on the hill near our house. The dogs panted. I sat there. And then I cried. It’s a long time, but I still miss Nicky terribly. I think I always will. But then I consider what my mum and dad went through, or John and Mary, the parents of beautiful, blameless Paul Maxwell, and I am humbled. I have my children. They each lost a son.
Martin McGuinness took a risk in shaking the Queen’s hand. He would have been mindful that the violent protests on the streets of Belfast of the preceding night, including 21 petrol bombs, were to show disgust and antipathy not just for the woman seen as the titular head of the British Army, whose 38-year Operation Banner killed 305 of their kith and kin, but also at him, a man considered by some as a traitor.
Let us not forget it remains Mr McGuinness’s publicly avowed aim to unite the south of Ireland with the north, and to end British rule there. For years, people believed he would deliver on that promise; the handshake will be seen by many as an admission that the possibility now seems as remote as ever.
But it would be a mistake to underestimate the achievements of Mr McGuinness – who maintains he left the organisation in 1974, before the bombing – and his allies. They achieved the well nigh impossible when they demolished the still undefeated IRA from within. This led to the IRA’s 2005 declaration that violence was at an end. By that time, Northern Ireland had come a long way from the woefully neglected state in which the British had allowed it to wallow for decades, its sectarian and prejudiced society seething in injustice and unrest.
Sinn Fein has emerged as a modernising, temperate force for good, and Mr McGuinness deserves enormous credit for his role in the increasingly peaceful state of the province. He has changed, and in so doing he has earned the support of the Catholic electorate, not because it wants a return to violence, but because it wants him as their voice in a peaceful, forward-looking democracy.
And I for one say Long Live The Queen, and Long Live Democracy.
BBC’s Radio 5 Live Diamond Jubilee coverage
Timothy Knatchbull was interviewed by Shelagh Fogarty for BBC’s Radio 5 Live coverage of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Timothy talked about his recuperation at Balmoral in 1979 and the care and concern shown to him by the Queen. The interview was transmitted on Tuesday 5 June 2012 as the Queen attended the Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Pick of the week in Paramatta, Australia
International praise continues as From a Clear Blue Sky was pick of the Christmas week books at Paramatta City Library in New South Wales.
Best non-fiction of 2011
From a Clear Blue Sky has been picked by the South African press for best non-fiction of 2011. The Daily News described it as “gripping, powerful, unforgettable”
Winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for 2009-2010
Timothy Knatchbull and From a Clear Blue Sky has won the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for 2009-2010. The writer and director of the film, Five Minutes of Heaven, also won an award. The winners were at the ceremony in Belfast on March 10th 2011 to collect their prize. The award recognise works that promote and encourage peace and reconciliation in Ireland and a greater understanding between the peoples of Britain and Ireland. These ideals inspired Christopher Ewart-Biggs who, as British Ambassador to Ireland, was killed by the IRA in 1976. Tim told the audience, “I will treasure this prize because it means more than any other prize I could imagine.”
Family links to India
On Monday February 14th 2011, pupils at Twyford School in Hampshire sat enthralled as Timothy Knatchbull and his mother Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma talked about their family’s long history in India. Countess Mountbatten’s father had been the last Viceroy of India and her father-in-law Michael, the 5th Lord Brabourne, had been Governor of Bengal.
The Lent series of lectures at Tonbridge School
The Parents’ Arts Society at Tonbridge School in Kent invited Timothy Knatchbull to give a presentation on Thursday February 10th 2011. Tim read excerpts from his book and spoke about his childhood in which his inspirational headmaster at Gordonstoun, Michael Mavor, made such an impact on him. Michael had previously taught at Tonbridge.
How to get your copy of From A Clear Blue Sky
From a Clear Blue Sky is now available on Kindle and as an Audio Download. This is in addition to the popular hardback and paperback editions and the full and unabridged boxed Audio Book set.
The Browser on-line interview
In his interview with The Browser Timothy Knatchbull discusses the books which contributed to his understanding of The Troubles in Ireland. He also highlights two articles: a sermon by the Rev’d Peter Gomes entitled ‘Seeking Faith Amid Ruins’ delivered days after 9/11, and an article by Professor Richard English who investigates ’21st century Terrorism: How should we respond?’
On Tuesday November 30th 2010, the Nehru Centre in central London provided the venue for an exhibition of paintings by Indian Miniaturists and an illustrated talk by Timothy Knatchbull. In spite of a heavy fall of snow that day over 100 people attended the event held in support of the Jeevika Trust.
Rye Arts Festival
On Monday September 20th 2010 Timothy Knatchbull spoke at the 39th Rye Arts Festival in Sussex. The event was a sell out. His mother, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, his Aunt, Lady Pamela Hicks and his brother, Michael John Knatchbull were in the audience.
From a Clear Blue Sky gets into paperback
The UK paperback version of From a Clear Blue Sky was published by Arrow Books on Thursday August 5th 2010.
From a Clear Blue Sky was shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley prize of 2010. The award recognises a literary autobiography of excellence, written by an author of British nationality and published during the preceding year. Previous winners have included Alan Bennett for his memoir, Untold Stories, Barry Humphries, More, Please and John Osborne, Almost a Gentleman.
A summer talk in the Garden of Kent
Timothy Knatchbull spoke at St Mary’s Church at Smeeth in Kent on Wednesday June 9th 2010 launching their summer series of talks.
The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival
On Saturday March 20th 2010 Timothy Knatchbull spoke at The Oxford Literary Festival. The event was held in Corpus Christi College and was introduced by Alison Boulton.
From a Clear Blue Sky published in India
Random House invited Timothy Knatchbull to launch the Indian edition of From a Clear Blue Sky. The event was held in Delhi on March 8th 2010 and co-hosted by Random House India and the Aspen Institute.
At the invitation of John Baugh, Headmaster of the Dragon School in Oxford, Timothy Knatchbull gave a talk about From a Clear Blue Sky on Monday November 30th 2009. All proceeds went to the Nicholas Knatchbull Memorial Fund