Northern Ireland

Royal wedding: Ex-soldier and mother and daughter invited

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Belfast on 23 March 2018 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited Northern Ireland last month

A former soldier from Ballymena and a mother and daughter from Londonderry have been invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

They will be among the 1,200 members of the public allowed into the grounds of Windsor Castle on 19 May.

Philip Gillespie, 30, lost a leg in a bomb in Afghanistan and now raises funds for an Army charity.

Catherine Cooke, 53, and Julie-Ann Coll, 35, also received invites because of their charity work.

Mrs Cooke is a co-ordinator at the Foyle Women's Information Network, while Mrs Coll runs a support group for parents dealing with child bereavement.

They received separate invites about 90 minutes apart and Mrs Cooke said she could not believe it when the postman arrived with the news.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Hats at the ready for Catherine Cooke and her daughter Julie-Ann Coll

She said her husband, who will be on a stag do in Krakow that weekend, was "devastated" that he could not attend, adding that she will take another daughter Stephanie to the big day instead.

Mrs Coll was nominated to attend for her work with child bereavement support group Life After Loss, having lost her son Mark in 2004 at 22 weeks old.

She will be accompanied by her mother-in-law Marcia Coll.

"I'm just over the moon but I can't picture myself being there to be honest," she said. "I'm just so excited."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The ex-Royal Irish Regiment soldier will be bringing his girlfriend Kirsty Crawford

Mr Gillespie, who is involved with ABF The Soldiers' Charity, recently took part in rowing and archery trials for the next Invictus Games.

Prince Harry founded the Paralympic-style competition for wounded service men and women and veterans in 2014.

Mr Gillespie said it was a "massive privilege" to be invited to what will be a "huge spectacle".

The ex-Royal Irish Regiment soldier said he had not told many people yet but expected his friends' reaction to be muted, compared to the feedback his girlfriend Kirsty Crawford was getting.

"I think Kirsty has got more of a reaction, I think it is more of a girl thing," he said.

More on this story