John F. Kennedy visited his great-grandfather’s ancestral home in Ireland on this day in 1963

John F. Kennedy visited his great-grandfather’s ancestral home in Ireland on this day in 1963

ON THIS day in 1963 John F. Kennedy made history by becoming the first US President to visit Ireland while in office.

In an historic first meeting, President Kennedy touched down at Dublin Airport to be greeted by Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and other dignitaries.

Thousands turned out in the Irish capital to see JFK’s motorcade, with the majority descending on O’Connell Street to greet his arrival.

An estimated quarter of a million people turned out in total to see Kennedy.

It was akin to a visit from The Beatles - in Cork, for example, he was mobbed by well-wishers.

Yet his own personal highlight came on June 27, with a visit to Dunganstown, New Ross, in Co Wexford.

It was here, many years prior, that his great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy was born and raised before scraping together just enough money to get on a boat bound for America.

Patrick travelled to the US with dreams of starting a new life.

What he could never have possibly dreamt, however, was that his great-grandson would one day return to Irish shores as one of the most powerful and popular figures in world politics.

JFK’s visit to Dunganstown was something of a family reunion too, with the US President attending a tea party in the ancestral town hosted by his third cousin Mary Kennedy Ryan.

Incredibly, footage of Kennedy’s visit to Ireland exists and was posted online by Pathe.

It provides the perfect showcase of a visit JFK would later describe as “the best four days of my life” with the proud Irish-American filmed leaving Wexford by helicopter.

For those living and working in Ireland, the appearance of Kennedy was one to savour, with many of those present during those halcyon days recalling how they lined the streets and shop fronts to get a glimpse of the man familiar to countless millions.

During the trip, Kennedy spoke of his satisfaction at reconnecting with his Irish heritage, quipping to one reporter: “I am glad to be here. It took 115 years to make this trip.”

Tragically, it would be the last time he would visit Ireland.

A few months later, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated.

Despite his life being cut tragically short, the legacy of JFK lives on as the greatest Irish-American president of them all.