Wednesday, September 30, 2009

JFK & John Barry both Wexford Boys

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During President Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland in June 1963, he remarked to the people of New Ross, Ireland:

“When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great-grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”

On display in the Museum is the Fitzgerald family bible brought from Ireland by President Kennedy’s forebears. A clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court held the large bible as John Fitzgerald Kennedy took his oath of office as 35th President of the United States on January 20, 1961. The Bible is an 1850 Edition of the Douay English translation containing a handwritten chronicle of the Fitzgerald family from 1857 and including a record of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on May 29, 1917.

In the Museum’s Oval Office exhibit is a fragment of a pennant flown on the Raleigh, a ship commanded by John Barry, a founder of the U.S. Navy and former commander of the USS Constitution. Barry, who served during the Revolutionary War as one of the first captains of the Constitutional Navy, was born in County Wexford, Ireland, the ancestral home of President Kennedy.

President Kennedy displayed the pennant in the White House Oval Office, and during his visit to Wexford, Ireland on June 27, 1963, placed a wreath at the John Barry statue.

President Kennedy visits the John Barry Memorial, Wexford, Ireland, 27 June 1963
JFK at the John Barry Memorial, Wexford, Ireland
Date: June 27, 1963
Copyright: Public Domain
Credit: Photograph by Robert Knudsen, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

KN-C29399 27

June 1963 President's Trip to Ireland. Wreath laying ceremony at Commodore John Barry Memorial. President Kennedy, Mayor of Wexford Thomas Burne, Minister of Extrenal Affairs of Ireland Frank Aiken, U. S. Ambassador to Ireland Matthew McCloskey, Naval Aide to the President Tazewell Shepard, others. Wexford, Ireland, Crescent Quay.

Photograph by Robert Knudsen, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

"The Boys of Wexford" is a famous Irish ballad commemorating the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The ballad was lyrics were composed by Patrick Joseph McCall and music by Arthur Warren Darley, who also composed other wexford ballads "Boolavogue", "Kelly the Boy from Killanne".

The Boys of Wexford

We are the boys of Wexford,
Who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain the galling chain
And free our native land.

In comes the captain's daughter,
The captain of the Yeos,
Saying "Brave United Irishmen,
We'll ne'er again be foes.
A thousand pounds I'll bring
If you will fly from home with me,
And dress myself in man's attire
And fight for liberty."

I want no gold, my maiden fair,
To fly from home with thee.
You shining eyes will be my prize,
More dear than gold to me.
I want no gold to nerve my arm
To do a true man's part -
To free my land I'd gladly give
The red drops of my heart."

And when we left our cabins, boys,
We left with right good will
To see our friends and neighbours
That were at Vinegar Hill!
A young man from our Irish ranks
A cannon he let go;
He slapt it into Lord Mountjoy
A tyrant he laid low!

We bravely fought and conquered
At Ross and Wexford town;
And if we failed to keep them,
'Twas drink that brought us down.
We had no drink beside us
On Tubberneering's day,
Depending on the long, bright pike,
And well it worked that way.

And Oulart's name shall be their shame,
Whose steel we ne'er did fear.
For every man could do his part
Like Forth and Shelmalier!
And if for want of leaders,
We lost at Vinegar Hill,
We're ready for another fight,
And love our country still!

1963: Warm welcome for JFK in Ireland

The US President John F Kennedy has received a rapturous welcome on an emotional visit to his ancestral homeland in County Wexford, Ireland.

On the second day of his four-day trip to Ireland, the president travelled by helicopter this morning to County Wexford.

Hundreds of well wishers cheered and waved flags on his arrival at Wexford town and a choir of 300 boys greeted him singing "The Boys of Wexford", a ballad about an insurrection in 1798.

The president left his bodyguards to join them in the second chorus, prompting one American photographer to burst into tears.

Once the singing was over, Mr Kennedy shook hands with as many schoolchildren as he could reach……

JFK's Fovorites -

Favorite Sports: Golf, Sailing, Swimming, Tennis

Favorite Songs:

"I believe that Hail to the Chief has a nice ring."
The Boys of Wexford
The Wearin' o' the Green
Londonderry Air
Kelly, the Boy from Killane
The Minstrel Boy
Beyond the Blue Horizon
When Irish Eyes are Smiling
Danny Boy
As a boy, John F. Kennedy enjoyed the Nutcracker Suit

In his speech to the Irish parlament JFK said:

…For knowing the meaning of foreign domination, Ireland is the example and inspiration to those enduring endless years of oppression. It was fitting and appropriate that this nation played a leading role in censuring the suppression of the Hungarian revolution, for how many times was Ireland’s quest for freedom suppressed only to have that quest renewed by the succeeding generation? Those who suffer beyond that wall I saw on Wednesday in Berlin must not despair of their future. Let them remember the constancy, the faith, the endurance, and the final success of the Irish. And let them remember, as I heard sung by your sons and daughters yesterday in Wexford, the words, "the boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand, to burst in twain the galling chain and free our native land."

John Barry Memorial - Gazing out to sea, opposite the tourist office in the Crescent, is the fine figure in bronze of Commodore John Barry - father of the American Navy. Born in Wexford, he went to sea as a boy and settled in the United States. During the American War of Independence he became a naval hero and was made Commander-in-chief of the Navy in 1797. He is buried in St. Mary's Churchyard in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The statue was presented to Ireland by the U.S. government to honour the outstanding contribution made by John Barry to the naval annals of his adopted country.

276 - Remarks at Redmond Place in Wexford
June 27, 1963

Mr. Mayor, Chairman of the Council, Mr. Minister, my friends:

I want to express my pleasure at being back from whence I came. There is an impression in Washington that there are no Kennedys left in Ireland, that they are all in Washington, so I wonder if there are any Kennedys in this audience. Could you hold up your hand so I can see?

Well, I am glad to see a few cousins who didn't catch the boat.

And I am glad to take part in this ceremony this morning for John Barry. I have had in my office since I was President the flag that he flew and the sword that he wore. It is no coincidence that John Barry and a good many of his successors played such a leading part in the American struggle, not only for independence, but for its maintenance.

About 2 months ago I visited the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battlefield in the American Civil War, and one of the monuments to the dead was to the Irish Brigade. In Fredericksburg, which was another slaughter, the Irish Brigade was nearly wiped out. They went into battle wearing a sprig of green in their hats and it was said of them what was said about Irishmen in other countries: "War battered dogs are we, gnawing a naked bone, fighting in every land and clime, for every cause but our own."

It seems to me that in these dangerous days when the struggle for freedom is worldwide against an armed doctrine, that Ireland and its experience has one special significance, and that is that the people's fight, which John Boyle O'Reilly said outlived a thousand years, that it was possible for a people over hundreds of years of foreign domination and religious persecution--it was possible for that people to maintain their national identity and their strong faith. And therefore those who may feel that in these difficult times, who may believe that freedom may be on the run, or that some nations may be permanently subjugated and eventually wiped out, would do well to remember Ireland.

And I am proud to come here for another reason, because it makes me even prouder of my own country. My country welcomed so many sons and daughters of so many countries, Irish and Scandinavian, Germans, Italian, and all the rest, and gave them a fair chance and a fair opportunity. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is of Irish descent. The leader of the Senate is of Irish descent. And what is true of the Irish has been true of dozens of other people. In Ireland I think you see something of what is so great about the United States; and I must say that in the United States, through millions of your sons and daughters and cousins-25 million, in fact--you see something of what is great about Ireland.

So I am proud to be here. I am proud to have connected on that beautiful golden box the coat of arms of Wexford, the coat of arms of the kingly and beautiful Kennedys, and the coat of arms of the United States. That is a very good combination.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. His opening words referred to Thomas F. Burne, Mayor o Wexfordf; James I. Bowe, Chairman of the County Council; and Frank Aiken, Minister of External Affairs.

After leaving New Ross that morning the President and his party drove to Dunganstown to visit the farm where Patrick Kennedy had spent his early years. Hostess for the occasion was Mrs. Mary Kennedy Ryan, third cousin to the President, who had assembled about 25 relatives and the Parish Priest for a family reunion. The President was shown the house and was served light refreshments in the farmyard. He gave no speech but proposed a simple toast "to the Kennedys who went away and to the Kennedys who stayed behind."

The President then flew to Wexford where he laid a wreath at the Barry Memorial -- a 1956 gift from the U.S. Government to the people of Ireland. He then proceeded to Redmond Place where he spoke and was given the freedom of Wexford.

In addition, JFK bought land near Middleburg, Virginia, where he had a house built that he called Wexford.

[Bill Kelly Notes: For those interested in solving some of history's mysteries, research could be done into how, exactly, John F. Kennedy came into possession of John Barry's sword, as he kept it in the Oval Office at the White House and it is now part of the Kennedy collection at the JFK Presidential Library. Can the provenance of the sword be established? Was it given to JFK as a gift? Did he buy it at a garage sale? Or what?]

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