Dear Queen Elizabeth,

I Hope this letter finds you well. I know you will be surprised to receive it from one whom you would always rightly have perceived to be among the ranks of your disobedient servants in the wilds of Northern Ireland, but it is written without any malice.

It is in fact written as a gesture of thanks and is dictated by the good manners taught me long ago by my mother. You don't know me, but my name is

Cormac Mac Connell and I'm a Papish of the Fermanagh variety.

It is fair to say that I fled from the province over which you still have jurisdiction as soon as I was able, and lived subsequently in what we still call the Free State down south of the Border.
It is also fair to say I have often said unkind things about you and your servants and agents.

However, not too long ago I wrote a fulsom letter of thanks to Mother Ireland in this space thanking her for granting me a decent state pension and many additional benefits.

Fairness and honor dictate that I should similarly thank you for recently granting me another pension for the few years I spent working in the North before fleeing. Thank you indeed.

I received the letter from one of your obedient English servants about 10 days ago. I was very pleasantly surprised.

I know that the weekly pension which you have granted me is only about 10 English pounds a week, sharply reduced from the normal level. However, I quite understand that.

Your Majesty might be interested to learn that your pension is more than five times greater than the £2 weekly wage that I earned when I began as a cub reporter in the Fermanagh Herald, and is still more than twice the £5 wage I earned when I fled to the Free State nearly five years later. You are giving me more than twice as much as the North West of Ireland Printing and Publishing Company gave me away back then.

A pound is a pound, and your gift is worth about three pints of beer weekly for the rest of my life. I am truly grateful.

I was critical of you here recently when I told the story of you banning a lovely rag and bone merchant called Wallie from Wexford from driving through Buckingham Palace's grounds twice a week. His poor old nag was broken-winded and he needed to take the short cut through your back garden. That was Wallie's story anyway.

I don't withdraw that criticism on the basis of the facts known to me. However, I have to say that it is a good sign of your tolerance that you accepted it on your regal chin and did not instruct your English servants to stop my pension of £10 a week. Fair play to you.

There is a new era on this island now as you well know. Your obedient and your disobedient servants are trying to live in some harmony together and making a fair fist of it so far. Difficult, but they seem to be getting there.

Actually, your loyal and obedient servants did you no favors at all when I was young by roaring out "God Save The Queen" passing our house during the marching seasons every July. They dragged you down to the grass roots more than a bit.

Actually, I never disliked yourself (I often felt sorry for you having to wear all that heavy regalia on state occasions) and I genuinely liked your late mother. She was a smiling class of a woman who liked her gin and a bet on the horses.

She lived to a big age, and you are now heading that way yourself too with some elegance. Fair play to you again. You have had more than your share of family troubles along the way, too, just like the rest of us.

Anyway, this grateful old disobedient servant hereby makes the following solemn promise because of your generosity. I have not received my first 10 yet, but as soon as I do I will convert it into euros and head off to the nearest quiet pub.

I will order a black and white pint of Guinness. It will settle itself serenely on the bar in front of me while I contemplate all the twists and turns and events of both my life and yours.

Finally, I will clasp it in my right hand, look around to make sure I'm not overheard, and I will say quietly, for the first time in my life, "God Save the Queen!"

Furthermore, I gather you may be visiting this Free State with our President Mary sometime in the near future. I live beside Shannon Airport in a thatched cottage. If you are passing this way you will be welcome to drop in for a cup of tea.

Indeed, if you take after your mother you are also welcome to a gin or something stronger. I owe you that at least.

Your disobedient but grateful servant,

Cormac MacConnell