President John F Kennedy was planning a return visit to Ireland with his family at the time of his assassination, according to his Wexford relatives.
Kennedy had promised to take a private family holiday in New Ross before his death.
He wanted to enjoy Ireland and retrace his roots without the security entourage that accompanied his official visit to the family homestead in Dunganstown in 1963.
President Kennedy’s plans were to return to the farm his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy had fled to escape the Famine.
The paper says that during his official visit, JFK had 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 has told the paper that during his visit, drinking tea by the fireside, the president asked his grandmother if he could come back privately.
Grennan, who now runs the family farm, said: “The president seemed to be blown away and he kept apologising for bringing the big crowd here.
“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 did fulfil her husband’s wishes in 1967 when she returned to the homestead with their children Caroline and John and stayed at nearby Woodstown House in Co Waterford during the trip.
A third cousin once removed of the US president, Grennan opened a makeshift visitor center in one of the old farm buildings which has since been transformed into a purpose-built museum.
The report says that this year the museum became home to JFK’s rosary beads and his Commander-in-Chief dog tag which he was wearing at the time of his assassination, five months after his Wexford visit.
Jacqueline Kennedy personally gave the precious keepsakes to Mary Ryan’s daughter during her husband’s funeral at Arlington Cemetery and told her to bring them back to Dunganstown.
Grennan added: “Jackie brought her aside at the funeral and said ‘bring these two personal belongings back to Mrs Ryan - I would love her to have them.
“When he came into our farmyard in 1963, my grandmother gave him a big hug and it was very unusual that JFK got this big hug.
“Then when he left here, he gave her a big hug. His sisters were amazed that the president was becoming so personal.”
President Kennedy’s Irish relations are now planning a private gathering to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.
Grennan said: “He’s the man who said he was going to put a man on the moon... he wasn’t your typical politician, he brought Hollywood to politics. He brought new hope to the world in the 1960s.
“Obviously you would be very proud that you have one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century, that his ancestor left from here and that he visited here in public office to acknowledge who he was, a descendant of Patrick who emigrated from Ireland during the famine.
“He stood in this farmyard in 1963 to acknowledge who he was.”
Here’s a CBS report on JFK’s visit to Ireland:
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