October 19th, 1962


FROM THE ARCHIVES:A peek into the Camelot of John F Kennedy’s presidency was provided to readers of this Irishman’s Diary which interviewed an Irish friend of the family, Dorothy Tubridy.

THE PRESIDENTIAL yacht was sailing down the Potomac towards a rising moon. The deck was awash with Kennedys and their friends. They were all replete on barbecued spare ribs and Southern-fried chicken, and in the mood for singing. The choruses which wafted, somewhat raggedly, across the water were those of Danny Boy and When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

This is quite my favourite vignettes of the week, and my authority for it is one of the singers, Mrs Dorothy Tubridy, of Dublin, back from yet another holiday with the Kennedys of Washington, and feeling just a little like Cinderella after the ball.

Mrs Tubridy is public relation officer for Waterford glass [sic] and Donegal carpets, and her friendship with Mrs Ethel Kennedy, wife of Robert, dates back 13 years, from before the death of her husband, Captain Michael Tubridy, of the Irish jumping team.

Her three weeks at the home of the US Attorney-General [Robert Kennedy] took her into the middle of two outstanding events: one social, one political.

As most women would, she speaks first of that brazenly opulent evening which coaxed some $90,000 from Washington society for the charitable Kennedy foundation. It was, in the words of Time magazine: “The sveltest, splashiest, most scrambled-after social affair that the nation’s capital has seen in many years.”

In a green, pleated-linen dress by Sybil Connolly, she went forth to dine at the French Embassy . . . Dr Betts was her escort to the subsequent charity performance of Irving Berlin’s musical Mr President. It was not a very good show but this, in the circumstances, was irrelevant. The audience, arriving in 18 bejewelled bus-loads from 15 other pre-theatre parties, had come to stare at the President and at each other. “They were,” said Mrs. Tubridy, “a somewhat difficult audience for any show.” Mr President was followed by a ball at the British Embassy, where she renewed acquaintance with the President. He and his brother Robert were already becoming a little preoccupied with the growing race-hate situation in Mississippi, and in the next few days Mrs Tubridy found the Robert Kennedy household increasingly concerned with the trouble in the South.

Among the Attorney-General’s decisions were those of how much force to use to ensure enrolment of the negro student, James Meredith, in the University of Mississippi. There were conferences at the house between Mr Kennedy and his lieutenants.

“I had known the family long enough,” Mrs. Tubridy said, “to be able to stay and listen to everything.” Eventually, as the crisis reached its peak, Robert Kennedy disappeared to his office, where he spent two days on the telephone, or in conference, without sleep.