For four months now, Paula Farquharson has been holding the reins of the Princess Grace Irish Library: a place founded in Monaco in 1984, to pay tribute to Grace Kelly's Irish roots. The new director of the library hopes to create the perfect meet-up spot, open to everyone, that reflects the true warmth and friendliness of the Irish.
Under the gaze of the most famous authors in Irish literature and a line of bronze busts, depicting Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, Paula Farquharson carefully pulls out an old book, taken from the heart of Princess Grace's private collection. "This work is almost 100 years old!" she explains, whilst delicately holding its shamrock green cover: "Ulysses, 1922: the first edition of James Joyce's masterpiece."
A precious treasure made of paper
"The Princess Grace Library is still to this day a little Irish haven, nestled on the Rock, a place where I feel at home and that reminds me of my country," reveals the new director, who hopes to launch hybrid events here, in this place that is bursting with history. "Introducing technology to the library," means the establishment can be shared far and wide, way beyond its four wall and richly decorated ceilings, all the way to the Emerald Isle, "or the four corners of the world."
For me, Grace Kelly is the embodiment of the perfect woman: by using her popularity to support causes she believed in, she inspired a great number of Irish women
Grace Kelly holds a special place in Irish hearts
Through a series of archival photographs and portraits of Grace Kelly, the American actress turned princess, the library takes visitors back in time. "Photos from the Princess of Monaco's visit to Ireland, in the 1960s, have been shared by the media for years and they really marked my childhood," reminisces the Dubliner. "For me, Grace Kelly is the embodiment of the perfect woman: by using her popularity to support causes she believed in, she inspired a great number of Irish women, particularly my mother, who loved her," she explains, her voice full of admiration, before adding: "my sister is called Caroline!" A name she shares with one of Grace Kelly's daughters, the Princess Caroline of Hanover.
Raised in a familly passionate about education, Paula Farquharson grew up surrounded by literature from the Emerald Isle, as well as exotic reports from National Geographic. "No weekend was complete without a family trip to the library." At meal times, books were swapped for classic music. "My father tended to listen to Brahms or Beethoven over dinner, or rather what he could make out over the joyous racket and laughter coming from his five children."
Paula Farquharson: a book-loving globetrotter
Marketing, finance, statistics and business French are all subjects that Paula Farquharson studied during her time at the prestigious Trinity College Dublin. After graduating, she managed to get her green card, aged 22, and took off for America. "A golden opportunity, since Ireland was experiencing a lot of unemployement at the time." Touching down in the States, she began her career at the Dior headquarters in New York, before going to work in Sydney for a while. "From novelist James Joyce to playwright William Butler Yeats, Irish people have always been real travellers: we have this ability to explore new horizons whilst keeping a special place in our hearts for our island."
After returning to Dublin to work in the high-end cosmetics industry, Paula Farquharson realised, aged 33, that she had still not fulfilled her dream of making a living as a writer in France. "I had a good wage, a company car and a phone fully paid for by work, but one day I just decided to ditch it all... with no regrets," she smiles. Spreading out a map of France, it was of course in a library, back home in Dublin, that she planned the next chapter of her life. "I chose to go to the Côte d’Azur, even though I knew absolutely no one, because it is a place that has inspired so many writers on their artistic journey."
Irish people are chatty, you only need to switch the radio on to realise that!
Honing the art of conversation
Settling in Nice, Paula Farquharson began her life as a journalist before pursuing her career in media relations. After almost twenty years of reading books from the Princess Grace Irish Library, this loyal member took over the reins and became the new director in January. Speaking about the "rare moments of tranquility in [her] life as a city dweller", she really appreciates the quiet she can find in this library, however she hopes to foster a more sociable atmosphere here, "characteristic of the Emerald Isle."
"Irish people are chatty, you only need to switch the radio on to realise that!" reminds this avid listener of the Irish radio station RTÉ. "For as long as I can remember, radio has always been a part of my everyday life, with its traditional talk shows, audio books and plays broadcast on air." Paula Farquharson firmly believes that every Irish library should, first and foremost, be a place full of inspiration and the ideal space in which to meet other people!