Despite a split-second fear that two Gurkha guards would pounce on him – a “very gracious” Princess Royal put a former Leamington schoolboy at ease.
Mick O’ Driscoll was made an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List for services to mental health nursing and was at Buckingham Palace this month to be presented with the honour by Princess Anne.
Mick, who went to Our Lady and St Teresa’s Catholic School in Cubbington and the old Blackdown High School, was politely told by palace officials not to shake hands with the princess until she had pinned the honour on him and stopped speaking.
But as with most people at Buckingham Palace investitures, a bit of nerves set in and as the princess went to pin the award, Mick put his hand out to shake her hand.
Mick, aged 52, said: “She had two Gurkha guards and for a split second I thought they were going to jump on me for what I’d done.
“But Princess Anne was very gracious and smiled as if to say ‘It doesn’t matter. Don’t worry, We’ll carry on.’ And she put the honour on.
“I was very impressed that Princess Anne knew how long I’d been in mental health nursing.
“She asked how on earth I’d stayed in such a job for so long. I thought that was quite amusing – I took it as a humorous compliment that I had stayed in a tough job for so long.”
Mick’s Leamington connections include his mum Margo Daly, who lives in Melton Road, Lillington, and his dad, also called Mick, who lives in Old Milverton.
“My abiding memory of the day at Buckingham Palace was the politeness of the policemen on guard duty at the main gates, the tight organisation and yet almost informal and relaxed atmosphere.
“The incredible art collection, the orchestra playing an old Irish tune, The Mountains of Mourne, as I approached the princess, and of course the pride of my wife and children seeing me in this somewhat unusual and unexpected situation. “
Married with three children, Mick left Leamington in 1984 and has been a psychiatric nurse for 25 years, working most of that time in acute psychiatric admission wards.
His MBE was for his work with people with psychotic illness, safely reducing the length of time spent by patients in hospital. He said: “It’s very enjoyable and rewarding work.”
He is the second most senior nurse in Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and works at Highbury Hospital.