Hello and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
Today I’m going to bring you to the tiny townland of Dunganstown , near New Ross in County Wexford .
you will ask why Stephen is taking me off the main road, along windy
byways so narrow that we have to practically dive into the hedge to let
an oncoming car pass! Here’s why, we are off to visit the Kennedy family
we arrive- this place is not even a crossroads, it’s a collection of a
few farm buildings where the Kennedy clan have their roots. The
descendants have done a wonderful job, with the help of the presidential
museum to re-create the story of the Kennedy’s, so let’s take a look.
Having squeezed our way down the narrow roads , there is a little car
park and a visitor centre. Let’s park and go on in .
we are visiting is the is the birthplace of JFK’s great grandfather,
Patrick Kennedy who lived from 1823 to 1858. By the time Patrick reached
adulthood, both his parents were dead and the family homestead was
controlled by his older brother John. The eldest son normally inherited
the farmstead and the rest of the children would have normally emigrated
to England or the New World.
In 1849, right after the Potato famine, Patrick left the homestead and
emigrated to the United States and settled in East Boston,
Massachusetts. The Kennedys set about building a new life in the United
States and ultimately his great-grandson John F. Kennedy became the
first Irish-American Catholic President of the United States of America.
June 1963, John F. Kennedy made a state visit to Ireland and he visited
Dunganstown in what was seen as a personal tribute to his ancestry. We
can see photographs of his arrival and the tea party that was held in
the family farmyard. There is a famous picture of him seated by the
fireside on a sofa , chatting with his cousins.
my visit I bumped into Patrick Grennan who is the owner of the property
and works the land as a working farm. He is a direct relation of the
Kennedy’s, his mother is a third Cousin of J.F.K. and he showed me many
interesting features of the homestead and the visitor centre.
of the interesting things was the sofa that J.F.K. was seated on. I was
told that the sofa was in fact a back seat from an old Morris motor car
!!! A reproduction of the sofa is now on display, but John showed us
the original one – hidden in plain sight ! At the time of the visit a
special hot line telephone was connected to the house, just in case the
president had to be reached .
we browse through the adjoining visitor centre we can admire a
wonderful collection of family trees, photographs and artefacts – we
could spend hours looking at them .
take one more look around the farmyard and imagine the fateful day that
Patrick Kennedy opened the gate of the homestead one last time as he
set out to begin a new life in America. If only the cobble stones could
a small child I can vividly remember the state visit of J.F.K. to
Ireland. I can recall seeing him passing down O’ Connell Street in his
motorcade and the excitement and the warm welcome that the Irish people
gave to him . The newsreel pictures of his going back to his roots still
sticks in my mind.
that time the Kennedy family have made many private visits to
Dunganstown and it’s wonderful that the extended family still keep in
touch with their Irish roots, and their cousins.
to go, before the rain arrives. I do hope that you enjoyed coming with
me today to enjoy this particular slice of Irish – American history and
to appreciate a true emigrant’s story.