Thursday, June 29, 2023

JFK in Galway 1963 - Looking West from Galway to Boston

On the 19th June, 1963, the streets of Galway were filled with young and old making their way to Eyre Square. The occasion was a special one - the visit to Ireland and to Galway of President of the United States, John FitzGerald Kennedy. The descendent of Irish emigrants in the 19th century, the story of the Kennedy's ascent to the highest political office in the world, and as the first Catholic president of the United States, captivated Ireland and the world. The crowd assembled in Eyre Square had gathered in a jubilant atmosphere for a 'homecoming' of sorts for President Kennedy. 

Material from Special Collections marking JFK's visit to Galway, 1963

In his address to the crowd, President Kennedy spoke of Ireland's past and still recent history of emigration to the United States, as well as his personal links to Ireland, which had been to the fore along his journey, stating, "I must say that though other days may not be so bright, as we look toward the future, that the brightest days will continue to be those we spent with you here in Ireland."

He added "If the day was clear enough, and you went down to the bay, and you looked west, and your sight was good enough, you would see Boston, Massachusetts. And if you did, you would see working down on the docks there some Doughtertys and Flahertys and Ryans and cousins of yours who have gone to Boston and made good."

To mark this anniversary, a selection of material relating to Kennedy's visit to Galway in 1963 has been selected by Marie Boran and is on display in the foyer of the Hardiman Building. There you will see photographs of the visit, later coverage and writings about the visit, as well as an original issue of Time magazine from June 1963, featuring a cover illustration of the Kennedys. 

Other sources of interest include the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston who has digitised photographs of the speech on Eyre Square online

A film in the IFI archives, made by the Columban Fathers in 1963, more details at
The Galway City Council commissioned documentary JFK: the three miles, will be screened at Galway City Museum, during Thursday 29 June, see
Tom Kenny did one of his Old Galway columns on the visit and it's available in the Advertiser archive at

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