Monday 19 March 2018

A quick whirl down Patrick Street

A photo of JFK from his visit to Cork June 28th 1963, at the spot where his parade drove down Patrick's Street.
A photo of JFK from his visit to Cork June 28th 1963, at the spot where his parade drove down Patrick's Street.

Graham Clifford

'At one stage a wave moved through the crowd as his car was approaching Grand Parade and you had no control of where you were pushed," recalls Kathy O'Sullivan from Cobh.

A 16-year-old at the time, she and her older brother Michael joined the tens of thousands of Munster folk along the streets of the southern capital in the hope of catching a glimpse of President Kennedy.

In the early morning, JFK's helicopter touched down in the drill square of Collins Barracks as anticipation grew on Leeside.

"At the time we were all swept up in the excitement but looking back it was probably very dangerous. There were young lads sitting on iron bridges and cranes, children leaning out of windows along the street and babies in prams on the side of the road," remembers Kathy.

The euphoric reception the US president received in Cork was overwhelming and it's said to have left a profound mark on JFK.

As he made his way to City Hall via Dillon's Cross, St Luke's, Summerhill, MacCurtain Street, Patrick Street, Grand Parade and South Mall, the crowds, which numbered over 100,000, roared their approval, bands played and ticker tape and confetti fell from the sky.

Handmade banners, in keeping with the sharp Cork wit, were dotted along his route with one reading: "Do not worry Jack, The Iron Curtain will rust in peace."

Gardai and secret service men struggled to control the crowds with some injured in the mayhem. "Sure we'd seen nothing like it before – the place just went wild for JFK."

The speeches inside Cork City Hall were relayed to the crowds outside via speakers and when the president spoke of Ireland being " ... the first country in the 20th Century to lead what is the most powerful tide of the century – the desire for national independence", the people of Cork roared in approval.

Indeed, mania reigned as President Kennedy's helicopter attempted to depart, with locals getting far too close for comfort. One White House press veteran is reported to have exclaimed "that was the most dangerous take-off I've ever seen in many years of covering American presidents ... My message home will be of this one helluva hooley we had in Cork."

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life