herald

Friday 21 September 2018

JFK was planning private return to Ireland when assassinated

Homestead: JFK having tea with his host and second cousin Mary Ryan (centre) and her daughter Josephine Ryan. Photo: PA
Homestead: JFK having tea with his host and second cousin Mary Ryan (centre) and her daughter Josephine Ryan. Photo: PA

JOHN F Kennedy was planning to make a private family visit to his cousins in Ireland before he was assassinated, his relatives have revealed.

The US president made a much-publicised trip in 1963 to his ancestral homestead in Dunganstown, near New Ross, Co Wexford, five months before he was murdered in Dallas, Texas.

His great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy had fled the farm and the devastating Irish famine just three generations beforehand to start a new life in Boston and forge the beginning of a world-famous dynasty.

During the emotional emigrant-to-president return, JFK repeatedly apologised to his cousin Mary Ryan for the massive security entourage, media circus and throngs of onlookers who had descended on the humble homestead.

Mary's grandson Patrick Grennan, who now runs the farm, said while the pair were sitting together drinking tea by the fireside – on an old car seat – the president turned to her and asked could he come back privately.

"The president seemed to be blown away and he kept apologising for bringing the big crowd here," said Patrick (38).

"He actually asked my grandmother could he come back the next year with his wife and the kids on a private visit, without the media intrusion.

"Of course, that didn't happen."

Jacqueline Kennedy fulfilled the wish of her husband in 1967 by returning to the homestead with their children Caroline and John.

The family stayed at nearby Woodstown House in Co Waterford during the trip.

JFK's visit to the ancestral homestead in June 1963 led to tens of thousands of people flocking there every year afterwards.

Constantly distracted from his farming by tourists, Mr Grennan – a third cousin once removed of the US president – decided to open a makeshift visitor centre in one of the old farm buildings.

That has since been transformed into a purpose-built museum which this year became home to JFK's rosary beads and his Commander-in-Chief dog tag which he was wearing at the time of his assassination.

hnews@herald.ie

Promoted articles

Entertainment News