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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Nancy proved an 'absolute lady' in Ireland

Nancy and Ronald Reagan on their visit to Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, in 1984. Photo: Don Moloney
Nancy and Ronald Reagan on their visit to Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary, in 1984. Photo: Don Moloney

Ralph Riegel and Ciara Treacy

Nancy Reagan will be fondly remembered as the First Lady who graciously accepted flowers from a little girl, sipped Carolans cream liqueur and wrote letters to her hosts 30 years after visiting Co Tipperary.

Mary O'Farrell remembers President Ronald Reagan's visit to his ancestral home in Ballyporeen in 1984.

"One of my fondest memories is when our six-year-old daughter Laura had a poesy of flowers to present to Mrs Reagan when she arrived," she recalled, paying tribute to Mrs Reagan when she travelled to the birthplace of the President's great-grandfather Michael.

"Laura got a bit tired, we had taught her courtesy and all that, but when they came she said 'here, Mrs Reagan' and just handed them to her - and she took them so graciously.

"When they went outside to see the show that was being put on, I asked would I take the flowers and she said 'oh no, these are the first I've got since we came here'. We found her to be an absolute lady."

Mrs O'Farrell and late husband John owned the local pub, which was renamed after the President. The interior of the pub was later shipped to the Ronald Reagan President Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California where it was completely reassembled as one of the key exhibits.

At its opening in 2005, the O'Farrell's again met with Mrs Reagan, who had continued to write to them every Christmas.

"She spent 45 minutes talking about how much the President loved Ballyporeen. We were amazed," she added.

The late RTE presenter, Derek Davis, who covered the Ballyporeen visit, previously recalled how US officials - including the Secret Service - consulted as much with Mrs Reagan as her husband.

She advised on the menu for the State dinner and personally directed Presidential staff to liaise with the Irish authorities over the precise cooking of the meal - down to the amount of butter used in cooking the fish starter. She warned her husband's digestive system didn't respond well to overly rich and butter-laden foods.

She also was consulted about her husband's visit to Farrell's Pub in Ballyporeen.

After her input, it was agreed that President Reagan would drink a pint of Smithwick's Ale rather than Guinness - amid concerns the richness of a pint of stout might upset her husband's stomach.

"She was an amazing lady," said the late Councillor Con Donovan, who was instrumental in the 1984 Presidential visit.

Irish Independent

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