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Jailhouse rock as Charles and Camilla serenaded by inmates during Northern Ireland visit

By Victoria Leonard

Inmates from a Northern Irish prison serenaded Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall with - what else - Jailhouse Rock on their visit to Dromore yesterday.

The trio from Hydebank Wood College and Women's Prison - two young men and a female inmate - joined ex-offenders in the Voice of Release singing group. They were accompanied by the Voice of Recovery singers, who use music as a form of therapy for recovering alcoholics.

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The 25 singers and six musicians performed for the royal couple as The Right Key, which is based in the Co Down village.

Before the royal visit, there was a carnival atmosphere as the performers entertained the crowds by singing and dancing in the bunting-lined town square. When the royal party arrived, the singers were moved beyond the security barriers to rub shoulders with the royal couple.

The Right Key's Sheila Smyth said that the royal visit had been an "amazing life moment" for the performers, who shook hands and chatted with Charles and Camilla during a walkabout.

She said the prisoners had been "risk assessed as low-level offenders".

"We got out the guitar to sing to the Prince and Camilla and did the Jailhouse Rock. Prince Charles said, 'That's brilliant, do it again'," she said.

"He said he had been listening to the singing from the top of the street and was very inspired, and he encouraged the members of the group to go on in their recovery. Their lives were in a place of brokenness and despair, a very bad place, and for them to be asked to do this is a massive life moment. They didn't want to stop singing!"

Another charity group visited by Prince Charles in Dromore was the Hope and Soul Via Wings charity shop, a social enterprise which supports families in need, helps older people escape social isolation, and trains young people for employment.

Founder Gail Redmond said that she and Prince Charles discussed the charity's food store project, which currently feeds 300-350 people a month.

"Prince Charles said that he had started the same type of thing 30 years ago, and he was very impressed with food being re-used through the Fareshare programme - it was close to his heart," she said.

The royals also got the chance to savour the flavour of Dromore as they sampled local produce.

Stopping outside the town's oldest business, Quail's 104-year-old butchers shop, they were presented with a platter of local produce, with Charles exclaiming that the "great thing about coming to Ireland is the excellent wheaten bread".

Charles then admired three vintage tractors on display from the Harry Ferguson Celebration Committee, in honour of the area's famous inventor.

Committee vice chairman Bill Forsythe said: "I told Prince Charles that Harry Ferguson, being Ireland's greatest inventor, had put the world on its feet by bringing food to the table that much faster, and he agreed with that immediately."

At Graham's newsagents, the royals sampled the shop's renowned ice cream, made from a secret World War 2 recipe.

"We were told that the Duchess really loved ice cream, and she looked like she was enjoying our salted caramel flavour," said co-owner David Linton.

"She said to us, 'Don't tell my husband I'm eating this!' but then she called him over and he had some vanilla ice cream.

"Camilla asked us for the recipe but we told her we couldn't reveal it as it's a secret, and she laughed. We told them to let us know the next time they are in Hillsborough and we would send some up!"

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