Three years before rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll was born, an Irishman of the very same name found himself in the headlines.

In 1976 Brian O’Driscoll was one of the locally hired staff at the British embassy in Dublin.

On Wednesday 21 July, in his role as driver, Brian was taking the new ambassador from his residence, Glencairn House, on the outskirts of the city for a meeting with the then-minister for foreign affairs, Garret Fitzgerald.

55-year-old Christopher Ewart-Biggs had taken up his new position just a fortnight before.

Christopher Ewart-Biggs died in the car bombing near his residence in Dublin

As a 21-year-old in the Royal Kent Regiment of the British Army, he had been seriously wounded at the Battle of El Alemain and lost his right eye. For the rest of his life he wore a smoked-glass monocle over his right eye socket.

As the official car passed the gates, driver Brian O’Driscoll saw his baby daughter, Sinead, being minded in her pram nearby and waved.

100 yards down the road, the IRA had planted 600lbs of gelignite in a culvert.

When the bomb was detonated the car somersaulted in the air and landed on the passenger side.

Christopher Ewart-Biggs was killed. So too was his 26-year-old secretary, Judith Cooke.

57-year-old Brian Cubbon, a senior Northern Ireland Office official who was due to accompany the British ambassador to the meeting with Garret Fitzgerald, was seriously injured.

Driver Brian O’Driscoll was also injured but recovered.

He said of the atmosphere in Dublin then "it was horrendous ... we felt in all honesty that we were facing into an abyss."

Three years later, 14-year-old Timmy Knatchbull and his twin brother, Nicholas, were the youngest passengers in their grandfather’s 29ft fishing boat that pulled away from Mullaghmore Pier.

The sea was flat calm on that Bank Holiday August Monday afternoon.

Half a mile beyond the harbour wall, the twins' 83-year-old grandmother, the mother of their father, turned to the boys and said "isn’t this a beautiful day." Shortly after, a bomb exploded.

Timmy was plucked from the water by a local couple, Richard and Elizabeth Wood-Martin, who had been out fishing for mackerel.

They thought at first the floating object was a football. Elizabeth remembers the boy had a good head of hair. Her husband’s strength was needed to wrestle the child into their boat.

Timmy’s life was saved by the Wood-Martins but his twin, Nicholas died. So, too, did the grandmother who had commented on the lovely day, Doreen Braebourne, and a 15-year-old from Co Fermanagh, Paul Maxwell, who used to holiday in Mullaghmore during the summer months.

The fourth fatality was the main target of the IRA bomb - owner of the boat, 79-year-old Lord Louis Mountbatten, grandfather of Timmy Knatchbull, uncle of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, and mentor as well as grand-uncle to their eldest son, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles with his mentor and grand-uncle Lord Mountbatten

In 2011, Timothy Knatchbull’s memoir ‘From A Clear View Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten bomb’ won the Ewart Biggs Literary Prize, set up to honour the memory of the British ambassador, killed in 1976 and to promote reconciliation.

That same year, 2011, history was made when Queen Elizabeth made what was the first State visit to the Irish Republic by a reigning British monarch.

Retired driver, Brian O’Driscoll, came back as support staff for the preparations and ceremonies.

Brian O'Driscoll survived the attack in 1976

Last Friday Glencairn was a busy place once more as the current British Ambassador, Robin Barnett, prepared to host a reception for a royal visitor, Prince Charles.

Two years before the Prince had made an emotional visit to Co Sligo, where his mentor, Lord Mountbatten, had been killed in 1979.

That May afternoon in 2015 Timmy Knatchbull and his wife Isabella guided Prince Charles and his wife Camilla through the rooms of Classiebawn Castle, where Mountbatten and his family had spent so many happy summers.

Prince Charles met Timmy Knatchbull (R) and his wife Isabella (L) in Mullaghmore in 2015

They accompanied him to the pier at Mullaghmore where the fishing boat had set out on its final journey.

Last Wednesday, on this his third official visit to Ireland in three years, at a function in Áras an Uachtaráin, hosted by President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, Prince Charles heard the poet Michael Longley read his poem, Ceasefire. Written at the time of the IRA Ceasefire in 1994, its closing two lines are: "I get down on my knees and do what must be done and kiss Achilles’ hand, the killer of my son."

Two years ago, Dominick Chilcott became the first serving British Ambassador to formally meet Gerry Adams. It was part of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the pending visit of Prince Charles, during which a public handshake between the Prince and the Sinn Féin leader took place at NUI Galway.

Last Friday, plans were in train for another gesture of reconciliation – the Sinn Féin leader was on the guest list for the Glencairn reception. Gerry Adams was, for the first time, among the invitees due at the Dublin residence of the British ambassador.

It is not the habit of the most senior member of Sinn Féin to show up at such functions, well in advance of the main VIPs, as recommended on official invitations. So Gerry Adams and his long-term colleague, Richard McAuley, were running close to the real rather than the recommended deadline as they negotiated the unfamiliar roads of south Co Dublin. They missed a turn and found themselves taking the slipway leading to the M50 motorway. They had to drive in the opposite direction, take the next exit and then quickly double-back, conscious of the passing time.

Fortunately they spotted the flashing lights and the garda escort, accompanying the official VIP convoy. And then, in their dark car with its darkened windows, they joined the official line. As part of the necklace they passed through the gates where Christopher Ewart Biggs, driven by Brian O’Driscoll, had passed four decades before. They continued down the drive and Gerry Adams emerged from what seemed like one of the cars in the official delegation that included Prince Charles.

Gerry Adams met Prince Charles at Glencairn House last week

Things are happening at such a relentless pace nowadays. Frequently we don’t have the space to observe, absorb and reflect. Additionally, the Brexit process brings with it uncertainty that often strays into dizziness.

But who could argue that the events at Glencairn last Friday were so many million miles away from what took place there 41 years before?