Three Samaritans volunteers from Ireland have been invited to Buckingham Palace.
Anne Cummins, Teresa Bell and Mary McMahon will don their posh frocks for the 70th birthday of Britain’s Prince of Wales on Tuesday in recognition of their dedication to the crisis-support charity.
The three – from Sligo, Athlone and Dublin – will bring more than 70 years of volunteering experience to the palace party, which celebrates the work of the charities and organisations that Charles patronises.
They were nominated for providing years of emotional support to those most in need.
Ms Cummins – a self-confessed royal watcher since she was a young child – has been a volunteer at Sligo Samaritans for 33 years.
She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled, honoured, surprised, charmed and delighted to be going, but I feel so many more people deserved it more than me.
I’m six weeks older than Charles, I’m 70 in September as well, so I’ll see if we’ve both weathered the storm the sameAnne Cummins
“I have always been a royal watcher. When I was very small I had a royal scrapbook. I’ve been to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards but I never thought I’d be inside it. It’s amazing. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I’m so lucky.
“I’m six weeks older than Charles, I’m 70 in September as well, so I’ll see if we’ve both weathered the storm the same!” she added.
Ms Bell has volunteered in Athlone for 20 years.
She said: “I couldn’t believe it when I got the call to say I was going – it was just wonderful. I was glad I was sitting down. It’s fantastic.
“It’s so important for Prince Charles to understand the work that we are doing. It’s a lovely recognition of our work and it’s so special to be invited to his birthday party – especially for volunteers from Ireland.”
Ms McMahon became a Samaritans volunteer in Dublin 18 years ago after her friend lost a brother to suicide.
“She always said ‘if only he had spoken to somebody’ and it always stuck with me. A few years later when I had more spare time I joined and I’ve loved it.”
Cindy O’Shea, Irish regional director for Samaritans, said all volunteers did an incredible job and ensured the service was available and targeted at the most vulnerable.
“Mary McMahon, from the Dublin branch, was nominated for her extreme commitment to the work with Listeners in the Irish prisons, Teresa Bell from the Athlone branch for her ongoing and longstanding commitment to Samaritans at a regional level, and finally Anne Cummins for her dedication and longstanding work at branch level in Sligo.”