A PLAIN wooden-handled rifle that had witnessed some of the joyous – and ultimately devastating moments – in the time of US President John F Kennedy (inset) has now been gifted to his homestead.
The Lee Enfield weapon, known as the 'Irish Contract' rifle, which had significant emotional resonance for the Kennedy family, was presented by the Defence Forces to the former president's cousin, Patrick Grennan, for display in the visitor centre in New Ross, Co Wexford.
During the president's 1963 visit, the ceremonial rifle caught his eye when an Irish cadet guard of honour was performed as he laid a wreath at the 1916 Memorial in Dublin's Arbour Hill.
Just months later, after he had been shot dead, his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, recalled the impact the cadets had made on her husband.
A personal request was delivered to the Army's Curragh Barracks.
Mrs Kennedy asked that some of the Irish cadets travel to the US to perform the ceremonial funeral drill, known as the Queen Anne's Drill, at his graveside in Arlington National Cemetery. It was the only time foreign troops – the 37th Cadet Class – ever performed honours at the funeral of a US president.
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who as foreign affairs minister met Kennedy in the mid-1950s, attended the handing over of the rifle at the weekend event at the Kennedy Homestead tourism centre in Wexford.