Northern Ireland remembers the Duke of Edinburgh

Voices of Northern Ireland have been paying tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, looking back on his many visits to the region over the years.

Lady Mary Peters served as Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast between 2009 and 2014.

"He always made me laugh. He was always very welcoming," Lady Mary said.

"On one occasion he was asked: 'Do you know Lady Mary?' and he said: 'I've known her since she was a girl.'

"He was always accompanying the Queen when she visited here in Northern Ireland when I was Lord-Lieutenant.

Lady Mary meeting the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on one of their many visits to Northern Ireland. Credit: UTV

She added: "He wanted to engage with people and he just had that curious way of making people laugh.

"I did meet him way back at the Commonwealth Games in 1958 in Cardiff, and subsequently at other Commonwealth and Olympic Games so you just get to know the character."

Like Lady Mary, Baroness May Blood, a long serving community worker in the Shankill area, also remembers the Duke of Edinburgh from a young age.

"When I was a young girl, he was an icon, he was tall, he was good looking - everything you would have wanted in a boyfriend. The Queen collared him, she married him," she said.

"The Duke of Edinburgh has left a really good legacy. Even at times people would say he's very outspoken but I liked that about him."

Baroness May Blood remembers the Duke of Edinburgh fondly. Credit: UTV

She added: "I always remember the Duke of Edinburgh coming up the line and being introduced to him and he said to me: 'And what do you do?'

"I said: 'I'm a community worker.' He said: 'You have it sussed.' And then he walked on."

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For many, Prince Philip will be remembered for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme that he created.

Prince Philip visiting Northern Ireland to hand out Gold Duke of Edinburgh awards. Credit: UTV

"Over the years, you watched that progress - the interest he took in the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme - how he got interested in all that youth work and set up a project that will carry on for generations," Baroness Blood said.

Stephen Dickson from the Belfast Activity Centre has been heavily involved in the scheme over the years.

Stephen Dickson Credit: UTV

"My impression of the man in the time I was fortunate to spend with him, discussing the award when he visited us," he said.

"It was very much case of him asking a question of are we making a difference, working with these young people? Are we giving these young people the opportunity to develop?"

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Whilst the Duke will be remembered by many for the scheme in his name, many will remember the famous handshakes by the Queen and Prince Philip with Sinn Féin's then deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh meeting and shaking hands with Martin McGuinness Credit: UTV

The exchange between the Duke and Mr McGuinness was seen as a highly significant moment - especially given that the Duke's uncle and friend Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA after a bomb was planted on his boat in Co Sligo in 1979.

"When he comes to Belfast, everyone is watching the chemistry between the Duke of Edinburgh and Martin McGuinness for example in 2012," said the historian Eamon Phoenix.

"It's less warm than the Queen and Martin McGuinness. He does shake the hand but you can see he is not interested in small talk or bon ami," Eamon commented.

Eamon also remembers more positive visits the Duke made to the island of Ireland.

"In Dublin, when he visited the Guinness Storehouse, he's enjoying his pint of Guinness on that occasion - celebrating a great institution."

Duke of Edinburgh visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin Credit: UTV

But it is sense of duty that will be remembered most keenly by Eamon.

"He'll be remembered as a loyal Consort to the Queen through difficult times through the divorces, through the difficult times, through the difficulties of Brexit which are still working themselves out, through good health and poor."

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