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Princess Anne charms guests at a sunshine garden gathering

Sunshine and style greeted the Princess Royal at Hillsborough Castle’s annual garden party.

Around 2,000 guests from all walks of Northern Ireland life gathered in the picturesque grounds of the castle, the official residence of the Secretary of State.

The men were suited — some hatted — while the ladies favoured florals, flounces and fascinators for their hair.

Guests ate and relaxed in the balmy temperatures to music from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service band.

Guest of honour Princess Anne, dressed in yellow and navy blue, arrived with Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and his wife Camilla.

She met Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Brigadier George Norton CBE, then planted a tree in the garden to mark her visit.

Her Royal Highness then chatted to a selection of the guests. All remarked on her ease of manner.

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Angela McCrystal said: “She really was very friendly and couldn’t have shown more interest.”

Mrs McCrystal and her husband Tommy, who are from Dungannon, represented carers in Northern Ireland society.

“I just thought she was very well informed about everything she was talking about,” Mrs McCrystal said.

“She told us to watch out for something which the Prince’s Trust was arranging for carers in Northern Ireland.

“She made you feel very relaxed.”

They take care of their eldest son Cathal, who had cerebral palsy and requires round-the-clock care.

“I have only the highest praise for the surgeons and staff of the neurology unit in Craigavon, but unfortunately the unit will soon be moved,” Mrs McCrystal said.

Keith and Mili Patton, also from Dungannon, were also impressed by the Princess.

Mr Patton, a coach for Irish Schools Rugby, spoke to her about her son Peter.

“I remember Peter playing for Scottish Schools rugby in Cork. I asked her if she saw him at the time. But she told me she wanted to go, but wasn’t allowed to. ‘But my policeman went and he had a great weekend,’ she told me.”

Civil servants Margaret McIntyre and Anne Trundle were also making the most of the occasion.

“It really has been lovely and tranquil,” Ms McIntyre said.

“It has all been extremely well organised,” Ms Trundle added.

In the final engagement of her one-day visit, Princess Anne visited W5 in Belfast where she was guest of honour at an event marking the 25th anniversary of Women into Science and Engineering (WISE) campaign.

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