The former Newbridge bank manager who painted portraits of Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Ireland last spring travelled to Buckingham Palace last week to formally present one of the works to the British monarch.
Michael Hanrahan was the only artist formally accredited to cover the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to this country - and County Kildare - last May.
Mr Hanrahan completed seven paintings of the Queen’s visit. The work depicting the historic moment when President Mary McAleese and the Queen laid a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance will now join the British Royal Collection, which contains works from artists such as Rembrandt and Leonardo Da Vinci, and will be handed down from monarch to monarch.
Mr Hanrahan managed the AIB Bank in Newbridge from 1989 to 2006, and took up painting seriously upon his retirement to Lahinch. He formerly lived in Haynestown in Naas.
He wrote to Buckingham Palace offering to present Her Majesty with a painting to mark her visit. “I got the biggest surprise of my life when I got a letter back,” he said. The letter from Edward Young, the Queen’s deputy private secretary, said that Mr Hanrahan could courier the painting to England, but, as he said: “You only get one chance at going to Buckingham Palace!”
Mr Hanrahan flew to London last Wednesday, August 10, to personally deliver the painting and was accompanied by his children Aisling, Daniel, Sinéad and Orla.
Unfortunately they did not get an audience with Queen Elizabeth herself, who is at her Scottish residence in Balmoral for August, during their visit.
However, the family was brought on a private tour of Buckingham Palace and were treated to tea and shortbread biscuits embossed with the Royal Insignia. “We were nearly afraid to eat them,” joked Mr Hanrahan.
One of the Queen’s staff described the painting as “the most important moment of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland”, related Mr Hanrahan.
“The most exciting part of the visit was before we entered the palace,” he said. “We arrived in a Bentley people were taking photographs of me and my family. The crowds came over and people were waving and clapping - for a moment I felt like a star! It was something special to be invited to Buckingham Palace and they were very good to us and very kind.”
Mr Hanrahan has made something of a speciality of painting ‘live’ events. He was invited to Croke Park to cover the All Ireland hurling final last year and has painted matches at the Aviva Stadium.
Next up, he will paint the performances of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance which will be staged in the open air at the Cliffs of Moher on September 1 and 2.
He takes quick sketches and uses his iPhone to snap pictures of the event ‘as it happens’, and then completes the works in his Clare studio.
The former banker has completed seven portraits of the Queen’s visit to Ireland, and they will be auctioned by Whyte’s in Dublin this October. They will go on display at the RDS before the auction.