John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland: Watch previously unseen film

Peggy Walsh, who is now 98, recorded the US president’s trip to New Ross in June 1963

Footage of former US president John F Kennedy's visit to New Ross, Co Wexford in June 1963 - filmed by local woman Peggy Walsh, now aged 98 - is to be donated to the Kennedy Book and Research Archive at New Ross Library. Video: Peggy Walsh

 

Previously unseen footage of John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland has been rediscovered after almost five decades.

The 20-minute colour film, recorded in New Ross, Co Wexford, on June 27th, 1963, was shot by Peggy Walsh, a local resident who is now 98, during the US president’s visit to the town. The Kennedys trace their roots to Dunganstown, about 8km from New Ross; Patrick Kennedy, JFK’s great-grandfather, left Ireland during the Famine in 1848.

The president, who travelled to Ireland five months before his assassination, described his visit as an emigrant homecoming. “It took 115 years to make this trip, and 6,000 miles, and three generations,” he said in a speech by the River Barrow. The spot is marked by a statue and an “emigrant flame” dedicated to the diaspora. It was lit by a torch taken from the eternal flame by Kennedy’s grave, at Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia.

The footage has “been in a drawer for nearly 50 years without anyone going near it”, says Walsh’s daughter Ann Larkin. “To have it now and have it looking so good” – the film was digitised by another New Ross resident, Paddy Breen – “is just fantastic. When you see the crowds around him, the freedom and the friendliness of it, it really was like a homecoming.”

Walsh and Larkin are donating the film to New Ross Library’s Kennedy Book and Research Archive, an offshoot of the annual Kennedy Summer School that was launched in 2017, on the 100th anniversary of President Kennedy’s birth.

The footage will be screened outdoors, at New Ross Library Park, on Thursday, September 2nd, at 5.30pm, as part of this year’s summer school. – additional reporting: Guardian

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