The Times We Lived In: JFK’s widow Jacqueline Kennedy at the Curragh
Published: July 3rd, 1967.Photograph: Dermot Barry
The Irish Sweeps Derby at the Curragh, Co Kildare on June 30th, 1967. At the top of the photo is Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of John F Kennedy, who was assassinated four years earlier. Photograph: Dermot Barry/The Irish Times
In summer 1967 a young American widow arrived in Ireland for a quiet family holiday with her two children. When your late husband happens to have been a recently assassinated president of the US, however, and you yourself are one of the world’s most stylish women, a “quiet family holiday” quickly develops into a surreal mix of respectful kowtowing and media frenzy.
When the transatlantic visitor spent an evening at the races as a guest of the taoiseach, Jack Lynch, this newspaper’s esteemed literary editor, Terence de Vere White, was dispatched to the Curragh to cover the event.
The article begins with his waspish distaste for the security measures at the racecourse, where he was requested to display first a yellow badge, then a blue one. “It was a Kafka nightmare,” he declares.
Our photographer, meanwhile, has been busy shooting this marvellous photograph. A crowd scene painted in magnificent detail, it shows 500 or so people, one of whom, in the centre of the presidential box at the very top of the shot, is the subject of all the kerfuffle.
A young woman emerged unperturbed from the scramble, walking with poise and a serenity that was most becoming to her
Barry has managed to imbue an image of Jacqueline Kennedy with the mood of hundreds of Curragh racegoers. Draw a diagonal line from the first lady to the Press East Stand sign, and you may spot two women wearing sunglasses, one of whom has removed her shades in order to aim a frosty stare at the snapper. Study the image and you’ll find dozens of these vibrant cameos.
De Vere White, meanwhile, must be one of the few journalists in Ireland who actually heeded Kennedy’s request for privacy – sort of. His article concludes: “Coming away, I was swept on one side by a young man imitating a fire engine after an emergency call. Behind him came a posse of anxious figures.
“As if by magic, a young woman emerged unperturbed from the scramble, walking with poise and a serenity that was most becoming to her. I saw her stand to say something . . . and then she disappeared into a car that blocked the exit. I wish I could tell you who she was.”
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