Royal occasion for leaders as they meet Duke

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Two Portadown leaders of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) scheme found themselves rubbing shoulders with royalty last week when they were invited to Windsor Castle.

Jonathan Graham (34) and Claire Dempsey (24) joined dozens of Northern Irish guests at a reception given by Her Majesty the Queen to mark the state visit by Irish president Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina.

Jonathan, who was a latecomer to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, having become involved when he joined 4th Portadown Boys’ Brigade (Edenderry Presbyterian) seven years ago, is chairman of the scheme’s managers’ committee.

Claire, a classroom assistant at Craigavon Senior High School, is a leader at the open award centre in Lisburn.

Both admitted to being extremely nervous before being introduced to the Queen, Prince Philip and the Irish president and his wife, but agreed they were “lovely”.

Said Jonathan, “It was all very relaxed and they really put us at our ease. It was good to meet Prince Philip as it is his scheme. I enjoy working with young people and getting them out in the air and up the mountains.”

Claire agreed that she was still “on a high” after the experience, pointing out that the Queen commented on the size of the Duke of Edinburgh contingent, with seven people in all representing the organisation in N Ireland.

The group also met Dame Mary Peters along with skier Kelly Gallagher and guide Charlotte Evans who earned Great Britain their first ever gold medal at the Winter Paralympics this year.