The following is a transcript taken from the LIVE Community Chat chat hosted here at TheWildGeese.com on Friday, November 22, 2013 -- the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Some editing has been applied for clarity.
The Wild Geese: Céad míle fáilte, a chairde! So glad to see each one of you who have stopped by for this evening’s LIVE Community Chat here in TheWildGeese.com. Our focus this evening is “Remembering JFK.”
We’ll be joined by a special guest or two for this chat. We have Sean Walsh from Irish Photo Archive with us this evening. He has some fascinating details about photojournalist, Andy Farren, and his assignment in capturing JFK’s Irish homecoming in 1963.
Irish Photo Archive is providing two 12x16 prints made from the photos shot by Farren, now part of the Lensmen Agency collection it owns. We will offer these to participants in the community-wide chat via drawing held after the chat ends. These commemorative items are destined to become heirlooms.
You can view some of these poignant images here.
Also to be given away to a lucky participant in Friday’s chat is a JFK Souvenir Hurley from Heritage Hurleys. Registered with the Crafts Council of Ireland, our Heritage Partner Heritage Hurleys is based in Westmeath. The firm makes handcrafted Irish Ash hurling gifts and souvenirs, personalized with images and text, giving an engraved effect finish a unique and beautiful Irish gift for all occasions.
You can see this special piece here.
We also hoped to be joined by Irish Composer, Vincent Kennedy. Earlier this evening, Vincent conducted his music “John Fitzgerald Kennedy – The Torch Still Burns Brightly” at a ceremony by the eternal flame on the quay side in New Ross, County Wexford. The music was commissioned by New Ross Town council and was the final part of their JFK ceremonies this year. Vincent was the Contemporary Music Centre’s Composer of the Month for January 2008.
We’ll now open it up for questions to Sean. Welcome, Sean!
Gerry Regan: Céad míle fáilte romhat, Sean! Pleasure to have you with us, on such a historic, though bittersweet, anniversary.
IrishPhotoArchive: Thanks, Gerry, for the invite. JFK was our man in the White House also! We are very proud of his contribution.
Gerry Regan: Sean, tell us a bit about Andy Farren, who he was, how he came to photograph JFK and how you came to know him and his story.
IrishPhotoArchive: Lensmen were the official photographers for the June ‘63 visit, and we are very pleased to have started scanning the collection of 3.5m images.
Jim Curley: From what you can gather, Sean, from photos and research, how would you compare the reception Kennedy got in 1963 to the one Obama got when he visited Ireland?
IrishPhotoArchive: It’s a vast collection spanning from 1952 which will take almost 30 years at our current rate! But we picked JFK, and we are in business. And yes, we were also at the visit of your Obama 60 years later.
Belinda Evangelista: Andy Farren Remembers John F. Kennedy at Dunganstown
Gerry Regan: Sean, how would you compare the receptions given both presidents?
IrishPhotoArchive: They have something special in that they care about people!
Gerry Regan: Here's a shot from the Lensmen Archive epitomizing the frenzy that JFK produced in his visit to Ireland:
IrishPhotoArchive: JFK was a mold-breaker. I don’t think we would get so close to a President now.
Gerry Regan: John Bruton might have nailed it in his article for us today, when he suggested that JFK held a mirror up to the Irish people, and the loved what they saw! Another People image:
Gerry Regan: I wonder aloud if JFK would have wanted himself photographed chugging a beer, given the stereotype many held of the Irish and Irish-Americans.
The Wild Geese: Earlier today, one of our Facebook followers, Brian Nolan, had this to say:
“I was asked today what did JFK do for Ireland? When I do my Galway's Horrible Histories Walking Tours (www.galwaywalks.com ), I stop at the Browne Doorway in Eyre Square and tell the story of how JFK won the hearts and minds of Galway and Ireland and I quote from his speech (in Cork)...’I bring to you today the greetings of the people of Galway, New York; Dublin, New Hampshire; the people of Killarney, West Virginia; Kilkenny, Minnesota; the people of Limerick, Maine; and the people of Shamrock, Texas.’
Whoever wrote his speeches, knew his craft right well. I then tell how he and Eamon De Valera signed an agreement which limited future Irish emigration to the USA, but the quid pro quo was the promise of FDI from USA companies ... including Boston's Digital Equipment Company (Digital), who 10 years later employed over 1,000 people in Galway. The rest is history. The foundation for modern Ireland's prosperity was laid right there in Eyre Square by JFK, who was assassinated in Dallas just five months later.”
IrishPhotoArchive: He taught us that we could be more than just “navvies.” We now are at the cutting edge of IT and medicine. We might have become another US state if he had lived?
Gerry Regan: Here's another shot from the Lensmen collection that caught my eye, on a sadder note, to be sure:
BTW, all the shots on display at IrishPhotoArchive.ie can be acquired, right there, via the site. I'd say many of these in a family's hands could become heirlooms.
IrishPhotoArchive: Even the sky is gray! Outside the GPO.
IrishPhotoArchive: The images we provide in Fine Art Print with certificate of authenticity and embossed stamp are intended to be family heirlooms. Finished prints come with full money back if not impressed when received! They always please.
Jim Curley: Over the last, say 20 years, there's been a lot of focus on Kennedy's peccadillos, both human and political. Is there much coverage of that aspect of Kennedy in Ireland.
Belinda Evangelista: “Peccadilloes” 1. a small, relatively unimportant offense or sin.
Belinda Evangelista: I had to look that one up Jim. :-)
Gerry Regan: Interesting question, Jim. in that infidelity, while a mortal sin in the Catholic world, is a 'nuclear sin' in the Irish world. JFK certainly strayed in his marriage.
Ryan O'Rourke: Yes, if his adultery is a "small, relatively unimportant offense or sin," I'd hate to know what a major one would be!
Gerry Regan: Sean, has JFK's image been marred in Ireland, would you say, by revelations of his affairs?
IrishPhotoArchive: Not at all Gerry -- we now respect the human in all people!
Gerry Regan: Might THAT be part of the president's legacy as well then? Understanding that our heroes often have 'feet of clay'?
IrishPhotoArchive: Indeed, Gerry. That brings great leaders to the ordinary man, and we see ourselves.
Ryan O'Rourke: I think that's too easy, though. Blatant and public adultery is no small deal when it comes to the man who should be setting a certain tone for the nation.
Gerry Regan: And as an aside, we are also giving away to another fortunate participant a 50th Anniversary JFK Commemorative Hurley in a drawing among those who chat here today. http://heritagehurleys.com/jfk-special-50th-anniversary-souvenir/
Speaking up has benefits, gang. Don't be shy! :-D
Gerry Regan: Sean, what perhaps is the most evocative, your favorite pic or pix that Andy Farren shot during the president's visit?
IrishPhotoArchive: This big Kiss:
Gerry Regan: LOL, Sean, Mary won't be denied. Lovely moment!
Belinda Evangelista: How is Andy Farren doing today? He seems to be a real gent in the video.
IrishPhotoArchive: Andy is doing great driving his Toyota and living the life! I admire him!
Oisín Ó Conail: There's one of these pictures that's really iconic in it's Irishness for me: JFK is sitting somewhat awkwardly - a bit like a schoolboy at his aunt's house - on a bench with a cup of tea by the fire beside Mrs. Ryan.
Belinda Evangelista: :-)
Oisín Ó Conail: What I think many rural Irish people would recognise straightaway is the iron bellows beside the fireplace - still a fixture in my own! Is there any one picture that stands out for you?
Gerry Regan: Oisin, check out the link Sean provided of Mary Ryan bussing the president outside the homestead. That has become my favorite, I think.
Belinda Evangelista: How old is Andy now Sean?
IrishPhotoArchive: 95 years of age, I think ... and Padraig is about 90 years, also going well!
The Wild Geese: We welcome Irish composer, Vincent Kennedy into the chat room!
Gerry Regan: Vincent, come in by the fire, and warm yourself. :-)
Vincent Kennedy: Thank you. Greetings from New Ross in County Wexford.
IrishPhotoArchive: Another Kennedy! Lensmen is now run by Susan Kennedy, from 1995.
The Wild Geese: Vincent, please tell us what you were at earlier today.
Vincent Kennedy: Tonight there was a ceremony on the Quay Side to commemorate JFK. I was commissioned to write a new piece of music for the event. And so I conducted the premiere of "John Fitzerald Kennedy - The Torch Still Burns Brightly."
Ryan O'Rourke: Very cool, Vincent!
Gerry Regan: Vincent, we were just discussing Andy Farren's coverage of the President's visit. Sean was kind enough to introduce us to Andy's work and give background on his agency.
Joe Gannon: When I was over in June this year I was amazed at the amount of coverage of JFK's visit there in 1963. Lots of Irish TV coverage that I'd never seen before.
Vincent Kennedy: There was a large crowd outdoors in the freezing dark.
Gerry Regan: How did it go today? What were the emotions of those attending your performance?
Vincent Kennedy: JFK's forefathers come form 3 miles from New Ross. He himself came here in 1947. He had the name of a Townland called Dunganstown. And when he got there he went knocking on doors. Eventually he came to a man also called John Kennedy. They realised they had the same great-great-grandfather. And then Wexford John Kennedy told JFK that his sister Mary Ryan still lived in the family home. JFK went there and met his cousins. They kept in touch and he returned as President Kennedy in June of 1963.
Gerry Regan: Interesting, Vincent. Thanks for that background.
The Wild Geese: Are you any relation yourself, Vincent?
Vincent Kennedy: I am related in spirt, belief in humanity, pursuit of dreams, in hope, in a belief that we can do better together on this planet.
Gerry Regan: And I do want to note that I'm a huge fan of Vincent's work, having now become acquainted with some of it. It's evocative, not pretentious, soaring at times, playful at other times.
Vincent Kennedy: Thank you Gerry. It’s wonderful to be part of this group.
Vincent Kennedy: Tonight the music was played by musicians from 12 military and brass bands and the world pipe band champions. On Tuesday, I’ll conduct the music in our National Concert Hall in Dublin ... that is, the new JFK piece.
Gerry Regan: What were people feeling out there, any insights there, Vincent?
Vincent Kennedy: Tonight it was so well-received we performed it twice
Ryan O'Rourke: Excellent!
Gerry Regan: A huge pleasure to have you in the family, Vincent. And Sean, was Lensmen there too? If not, what did you guys shoot today?
Jim Curley: Vincent, listening to the Cromwell piece as I type. Certainly, conveys the terror that he must have caused as he drove people "to hell or to Connaught."
Vincent Kennedy: In June of this year, all the Kennedys came to New Ross. Aer Lingus got special permission to fly the flame which was lit from the flame at JFKs grave in Arlington to Ireland. The flame in New Ross is lit from the flame at Arlington and is on the Quayside in front of the Famine Ship, The Dunbrody.
Vincent Kennedy: Indeed, Cromwell was a scourge.
Joe Gannon: My wife and I were there in June and I thought about heading down for that ceremony in New Ross, but the trek on Irish roads from up in Mayo made me drop the idea.
Belinda Evangelista: And cows and sheep on the roads too Joe. lol
The Wild Geese: Folks, be sure to stop by and work your way through our JFK links page.
Gerry Regan: Yes, everything we've highlighted here can be accessed later. As well, you can reach out to Vincent and Sean at any time. They are both members of our community, and most welcome and distinguished members at that. :-)
Vincent Kennedy: New Ross is situated at the gateway to the Hook Peninsula. Its a very historical place. It was here in 1170 AD that the Normans began their invasion of Ireland at Baginbun Head. It is also the site of Hook Lighthouse the oldest continuously working lighthouse in the world.
Jim Curley: Vincent, it the Olympics ever makes its way to Ireland, I can see “Where the North Wind Blows” being played at the opening ceremony. Great stuff.
Belinda Evangelista: I was 0 at the time of JFK's visit. :-) Any more numbers here?
IrishPhotoArchive: Áras an Uachtaráin:
Gerry Regan: I was 10, and even at that age, knew the president's death was a cultural, as well as a potlicial, watershed.
Ryan O'Rourke: I was negative-15 years of age at the time, Belinda. :-)
Jim Curley: Plus-19 here. :-)
Joe Gannon: I was 12 years old ... it was a great shock for my family. JFK was like the young prince to Irish America.
Vincent Kennedy: JFK first came to Ireland in 1945. Then he actually interviewed Eamon De Valera who is seen in the photo at Aras An Uachtaran.
Gerry Regan: Here's the caption for the last image posted by Sean: President John F. Kennedy entertained at a dinner party given by President Éamon de Valera at Áras an Uachtaráin. Included in the group are An Taoiseach Seán Lemass, Mrs de Valera and Mrs Eunice Shriver.
Jim Curley: I guess Jackie was very pregnant at the time with Patrick.
Gerry Regan: Yes, was Jackie with the president in Ireland?
Ryan O'Rourke: She wasn't, Gerry, no. She refers to that in her letter to De Valera.
Vincent Kennedy: JFK, working as a Navy journalist, was also the only journalist to predict that Winston Churchill would lose the British general election which followed the end of WWII
The Wild Geese: How about this, folks ... WHERE were you when you heard the news?
IrishPhotoArchive: Most men my age remember their Mothers crying at the sad news of JFK’s death.
Fran Reddy: Hello, all.
Belinda Evangelista: Fran, how old were you?
Fran Reddy: I was three years old in 1963.
Belinda Evangelista: A child of the ‘60s like meself, Fran.
Vincent Kennedy: For us, we had a photo of JFK on our press where there were also photos of relatives. Having the same surname, we assumed JFK was our uncle also.
Gerry Regan: Interesting to consider life's twists and turns. which is something this anniversary is inspiring in me, a look back not only to 1963, but a lifetime. But that focus on 1963 I'm finding bittersweet.
Joe Gannon: I got the news when I got off the school bus around 2 p.m. ... about a half out after he was shot. All the moms in the neighbor were out in the street ... some crying we knew something important had happened.
Alannah Ryane: I had no idea that I was going to the Kennedy Homestead until just before we arrived. All day I have been reflecting on it, how close my ancestors were in to his ... like the parallels of my Hayes ancestors in Liverpool living alongside John Lennon's ancestors.
Jim Curley: Vincent, who was the Pope in the other framed picture in your house?
Vincent Kennedy: Pope Paul VI.
IrishPhotoArchive: The Pope - JFK - and the Holy Picture made it to the main wall in most Irish homes.
Fran Reddy: My sister did a project on JFK while in high school and I always remembered him from that.
Vincent Kennedy: JFK made me dream of going to USA as a child. So I wrote my music Dreams about it:
Ryan O'Rourke: Very nice, Vincent!!
Vincent Kennedy: Thank you, Ryan.
Alannah Ryane: I also found it extremely moving standing in front of the flame on the Quay in New Ross brought from Arlington. I am so happy the Oisin wanted to take a photo of me shaking hands with the JFK statue. That whole JFK day for me was memorable ... more than in grade six.
Vincent Kennedy: I am writing a new music theatre piece about JFK which will go to stage next March in Dublin.
The Wild Geese: Okay, folks ... we've been chatting for an hour, so we'll wrap this up for this evening. Thank you all so much for joining in. Special thanks to Sean Walsh and Vincent Kennedy for joining us as special guests this evening.
Gerry Regan: Thank you, Ryan, Vincent, Sean, for creating and sharing this special occasion with us all!
Vincent Kennedy: Happy eve, everyone, from the Kennedy home.
Belinda Evangelista: Nice chatting with you all.
The Wild Geese: Oiche mhaith, gach duine.