Thoughts of JFK ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 309

Tonight marks the night before the assassination of  John F. Kennedy fifty years ago and, for all sorts of reasons, he has been on my mind all day.

I was too young in 1963 to realise exactly what was unfolding but as I grew up I learned more and more about the extent to which the Kennedy family was connected to ours. In short, my uncle, Captain Michael Tubridy, who was a world class show jumper developed a friendship with the Kennedys through his many trips to the US back in the late 1940’s and after he was killed in a freak riding accident in 1952, his widow, Dorothy was embraced by the Kennedys.

Today, I was looking through my late father’s scrapbooks and came across this photograph of Dorothy which was taken just before she departed to attend JFK’s inauguration as President. I suspect the photograph was in the Irish Times but I can’t be sure:

Recently, I took the Emigrant Trail in Co. Wexford, which tells The Kennedy Story. The Kennedy Homestead in Dunganstown was particularly poignant as it  brings one back to the place where JFK’s great-grandfather, Patrick,  lived before leaving  for America in 1848. JFK  paid a visit to his ancestral home on June 27th, 1963, just a few short months before he was killed.

Part of the Original Kennedy Homestead at Dunganstown, Co. Wexford.

The Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, from where Patrick Kennedy sailed,  has also stayed very much with me as it highlights the horrific conditions which were associated with emigration back in 1848, when it took up to six weeks to cross the Atlantic. The death rates on the ‘Coffin Ships’ were as high as 50% in some cases.

In overall terms, it is very clear that JFK’s memory will live long in the collective memory of Irish people and,  through Uncle Michael, in that of our extended family.

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

12 thoughts on “Thoughts of JFK ~ Gatherings from Ireland # 309”

  1. That was a difficult time here in the USA. I remember being just a high school boy sitting in a biology class as the announcement of his death came over the PA system. In a cloud of almost disbelief hung heavily over the room. The young professor lowered his head, and said quietly, but so that we all heard him:
    “What a waste.”
    For half a century now, I’ve felt those words often, and in a profound way. it is not likely I will ever hear anything said that better defines how I have felt about it.

  2. I was 13 when this terrible tragedy occurred. I was fortunate to get to see him in person when he was on his campaign trail and came through our smal Illinois town, Venice, near St. Louis, Missouri. My brother got to shake his hand, and my dad, unbeknownst to me at the time, was there as well, and showed up in a photo shared on facebook a couple of years ago. Thought you might like to see it. So many of us were connected in odd ways to the Kennedy’s. He was the first and last rock star president of the U.S. Controversial, but a harbinger of changes now in the mainstream consciousness. He was truly a champion of the downtrodden and gave hope to the masses.

    Here’s a family article my brother and I wrote and a rare photo of that time.

    1. Hi Roy, you’re so right about that 1963 visit that JFK made to Ireland as President. It is definitely coming across now as having been fundamentally important in terms of the Irish bond and pride in Ireland.

  3. Lovely post, Jean. We’re preoccupied with remembering JFK here this week. Flags all at half staff. Newspapers full of photos and special editions. People of a certain age all tear up when asked “where were you when…..” My father told me that day that I would always remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. He was so right. At 10 years of age, I was in the sixth grade, Sr. Thomas Loretta’s class in St. Anthony’s School, in the Bronx. One very vivid memory – my neighborhood was predominantly Irish Catholic. We were dismissed from school early, and as I walked home that afternoon, all the men and women of the neighborhood, friends of my parents, were out on the street, standing in groups on the corners, talking quietly and crying. This country lost so much that day. With the death of JFK, we lost our innocence as a nation and, sadly, have become a much more cynical country.

    1. Joanne, it’s lovely to hear from you and thanks for sharing your experience then and now. There has been huge coverage here in Ireland, too, over the last while and especially today. JFK was undoubtedly ‘special!’

  4. That’s a fascinating bit of family history. A friend just told me the other day that her first cousin was a member of the Irish Army Honour Guard that performed that fantastic drill at JFK’S funeral.
    I am a Wexford man in exile here in Waterford and remember JFK’S visit and then his funeral as well. It was like he was a member of the family and the pride and excitement of his visit and then the grief of his death was felt by all.

  5. Liam, I can’t but smile at you saying you’re ‘ a Wexford man in exile here in Waterford.’ given that you look so much at home whenever I see you out around Garrarus!!! But I know exactly what you mean about one’s native heath.
    That Guard of Honour at JFK’s funeral was amazing and I can only imagine how Wexford people must feel about JFK, given his ancestry and ties to Co. Wexford.

  6. Wonderful post, Jean. I remember being surprised while on my trip to Ireland a few years ago at how many places still display portrait of JFK, and discussing with an Irish woman how keenly they felt the connection to him even yet. I was in my third grade classroom when my teacher, Miss Moag, answered a rare knock on the classroom door. There was a murmur of voices, and she returned, crying, to tell us that JFK had been shot. I had never seen a teacher cry before, and it made a huge impression.

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