Wednesday 20 September 2017

RTE's online JFK exhibition showcases clips

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

IT's a treasure trove of radio and television footage from the biggest event RTE ever covered.

The station was less than two years old when it undertook the mammoth task of filming all four days of JFK's visit to Ireland, and much of the footage and radio broadcasts will be made available online later this month.

Liam Wylie, curator of the RTE JFK Exhibition, has spent months combing the archives to find radio clips, television footage, photographs and documents to show the public just what happened over those summer days of 1963.

"What we've been doing is taking materials from all of the RTE archives and the idea is to make more of this available to the public," he said.

"One way we do it is we build exhibitions and put them online.

"With JFK, a lot of people today don't realise that he was four days here, which was a big deal. RTE covered it on radio and television for the entire four days, broadcasting live but also producing edited highlights for people at work who might like to watch in the evening.

"The name of this exhibition is 'President Kennedy in Ireland' and it not only covers the four days, but also looks at the lead-up to the visit and the reaction to his death. You'll be able to experience the radio and television coverage from that time."

One of the first challenges for RTE, or Telefis Eireann, was to track President Kennedy during his visit.

Equipment was borrowed, and an outside expert, Anthony Craxton, who had experience covering royal events in the UK, was drafted in to oversee the large banks of cameras.

"I think they would have had to throw all their resources into this – there was one television station and one radio station at the time, and it was quite unusual to have that amount of coverage," Mr Wylie said.

The footage shows a relaxed President Kennedy during his trip, except for a brief moment of nervousness when he addressed Dail Eireann,

"When you put it back together, there's a lot of dead time. I found some of the stuff really interesting. Looking at Kennedy at the airport, it's quite official, but the reaction of the crowds means you can see him relax.

"He looks slightly nervous speaking in the Dail, whereas in other places he spoke off the cuff.

"They had a garden party in Aras an Uachtarain – Maude Liddy describes what the ladies are wearing on the radio, and when you watch the television footage it's a bit chaotic. It's almost as if people are becoming a bit too familiar. You can see that people are fascinated at having him in the country."

E xtended footage will be available at

Irish Independent

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