Michael Collins, and the Mystery, of the French Lady?

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‘Mystery French lady’ returns to lay roses for hero Michael Collins – 3h ago

On his birthday she lays flowers in the colours of Co Cork. On the anniversary of his death each year and the anniversary of the Easter Rising, she lays flowers in the colours of the Irish flag. For more than 21 years, Veronique Crombe — originally known as “the mystery French lady” — has never failed to honour her hero, Michael Collins.

To Veronique, he was “the greatest Irishman”. A “brave and realistic” hero who was shot down in his prime. And this weekend, the 61-year-old Parisian returned to pay her respects on the 100th anniversary of his death.

After travelling to Clonakilty yesterday to attend a symposium in his honour, she makes her way today to Béal na Bláth, the site of his murder.

Her devotion started in 2001, after becoming “fascinated” with the real Collins after she saw the Neil Jordan-directed movie.

Despite having no Irish connections, she says that afterwards she felt “the need” to visit his grave. “Two months later, I came again and put more flowers there, and I have been doing it every year since 2001,” she said.

“I bring flowers on occasions like his anniversary, on his birthday, St Michael’s Day and at the start of the Easter Rising.”

Asked why she continues her love affair with one of Ireland’s political heroes, she said: “Because he was so dedicated to his country and he was so dedicated to his ideals.”

The first being “the freedom of his country”, the second, that he was willing to give ground for the greater good.

“He realised there are some things that can’t be achieved right now, so ‘let’s deal with what we can get, instead of being a total hardliner’. He didn’t say ‘it’s all or nothing’, which is a very destructive approach.

“He showed that there are times when you have to reach a compromise for peace.

“I’m not the only one who does this,” she said.

“There is a group of people who are far too often overlooked. The National Collins22 Society tend to his grave and lay flowers every Saturday morning. There are so many flowers all year around because of them.”

On how long she will continue her tradition, Veronique said: “As long as I can.”

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