A French woman has spoken of her unbelievable devotion to the memory of Michael Collins – thanks to the Neil Jordan bio-pic of the Irish leader.
Veronique Crombe has spent a small fortune paying homage to the man who signed the Treaty even though she has no connections with Ireland.
Her 10-year long love affair with the IRA leader began when she saw the movie, starring Liam Neeson and produced by Neil Jordan
She is now known as the ‘mysterious French lady’ who regularly places flowers on the grave of the revolutionary in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery.
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Speaking to the Sunday Independent newspaper, the 50-year-old lecturer and guide at the French National Museum, struggled to explain her ‘overwhelming’ desire to keep Collins’ memory alive.
Crombe admitted to the paper that she regularly visits Ireland to place flowers at the grave and also holds commemorations celebrating the life and times of Michael Collins.
“The draw of seeing the Jordan film three years after it was released appeared to me that it was more than an excellent actor giving a great performance, Michael’s life story was finally being told to the world,” said Crombe who plans to hold a candlelight ceremony at the grave on October 29th, 2012.
Veronique told the Sunday Independent how she was attending an Indian classical dance workshop in the south of France in August 2000 when she felt the inexplicable need to rush to a nearby cathedral and light a candle for Collins.
“On the 22nd, the date he was shot dead, was the decisive moment which helped me understand that definitely, sooner of later I would have to go to Ireland to know more and that going to his grave would show me the way. That Michael himself was drawing me to continue on his story,” she said.
“I’m not the only one who feels that way, my friend, author Chrissy Osborne, told me time and again, when she published her first book about Michael, Michael Collins Himself and also the second one, Michael Collins, A Life in Pictures, that she had always felt that it was Michael who wanted those two books to be written and published because both were a different approach to recounting his life.
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“The amazing thing was indeed that Mercier Press immediately agreed and wanted to go ahead when Chrissy contacted them to talk about her project, even though she was not a historian, had never written a book and wasn’t even a journalist.
“Amazingly, that is also what I felt when I saw Michael Collins - a Musical Drama, in 2009. The musical was just fantastic, I know it was very special for Bryan Flynn who wrote it and Eoin Cannon who played the part on the three occasions I saw it, and gave a fabulous performance.”
The Frenchwoman also recalled the emotional impact of her first visit to the Collins plot in Glasnevin cemetery.
She continued: “It is difficult to find words to describe how I felt. It was emotional and tears welled up in my eyes but I didn’t cry and I wasn’t afraid,” she added.
“It was the start of something that is still with me. When a person dies young an energy is left behind. An energy surrounding things left undone. Speaking to relatives of Michael, they say they feel the same.”
Now actively involved in a campaign to Save Moore Street and preserve the houses where the 1916 Rising leaders took shelter after evacuating the GPO, Crombe thanked the Dublin florists who facilitate her devotion to Michael Collins.
“The Hewitt sisters at Rosary Florists do a great job for me on preparing the floral arrangements for Collins’s grave,” she said.
“It happens sometimes that I ring them early in the morning saying: ‘Sorry to ring you so early but I woke up this morning knowing that Michael needed something, can you have a few red roses delivered to the grave asap?’ and there is never a problem.
“Usually I realise in an afterthought that the day is a date of some significance in his life.”