Appeal for memories of JFK’s Irish visit

Wexford publican shocked as photograph of meeting with US president unearthed

 

Wexford publican John Murphy (56) “couldn’t believe it” when he looked at his computer screen and saw his seven-year-old self peering up at US president John F. Kennedy during his visit almost 50 years ago.

The identification came after the National Library of Ireland circulated the 1963 photograph and made an appeal on Twitter on Wednesday.

Today a website was launched to find more such tales and memorabilia as the public has been asked to dig deeply into their old photo boxes and their memories and share their stories of the US president’s visit in June 1963.

Mr Murphy said his cousin had seen the photograph online, recognised his mother and thought it might be him. “Sure enough it was me.....It is a bit of a shock,” Mr Murphy said.

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The family had gathered at the New Ross quayside early and got a prime position at the barrier because his father was playing in a céilí band for the visit. “We couldn’t believe it when President Kennedy actually came up to us and rubbed me on the head,” he said. Family legend has carried over that the rub is the reason Mr Murphy is bald on top.

Mr Murphy says he will “treasure” the photo and hopes to put it on the wall of his pub, Colfers of Carrig On Bannow. He recalls the “brightness of his visit” lasting the summer and the “dark cloud” on hearing of his assassination in November.

It is such stories that Susan Cleary public affairs officer at the US Embassy said the website aims to capture. She wants it “save” these stories as they “don’t last forever”. “We are looking for people to react in whatever way the want” and she hopes the “next generation” tell family stories about the visit.

“We are launching today not because the website is finished but because we hope the content will come from people,”she said. Today would have been JFK’s 96th birthday . The site is a collaboration between the US Embassy, the National Library of Ireland and RTÉ.

The site features a timeline of his 12 main stops between June 26th-29th on which people can submit their own photos and memories . There are also videos from well-known people including author Roddy Doyle who recalls his family going to see JFK dressed in Aran jumpers looking like a “cut-rate version of the Von Trap family”

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said many of JFK’s words were still relevant today and he gave Ireland confidence as a nation.

For those who cannot access the website, the National Library is tomorrow holding a collecting day to digitise people’s’s photos and stories from 10am -4pm. The website is part of a wider project which will see a JFK homecoming exhibition open in the National Library next month and events for The Gathering. The websit is : jfkhomecoming.com.