Friday 23 March 2018

...but one guest remembers it a little differently!

Breda Ryan
Breda Ryan

Breda Ryan, whose husband Paddy was the mayor of Galway and whose father Pat was a senator from Co Meath, has happy memories of the infamous Aras garden party.

"I remember President Kennedy was inside in the house and the ministers and judges were lined up to meet him.

"We were all dressed up, the ladies with hats. There was really beautiful style, I must say. When it was our turn, we went in out of a very bright glass conservatory into a dark room.

"He was standing beside Mr De Valera and looking very tall and handsome.

"Alderman Patrick Ryan and Mrs Ryan were announced and we stepped forward. He was real sharp. As soon as he heard Galway, he said to Paddy, 'I'm looking forward to being with you on Saturday'. He had his homework done. It was all very impressive. It was a lovely occasion.

"The beauty of it was I was only 30 at the time. When you think of it, we were all young. All these guys were young tigers at the time. Jack was in his 40s, and you know everything is beautiful when you are young," she said.

Outside the Aras, rain meant that most of the seats remained unused. After over an hour, the president left the building to go out and meet the over-excited guests and things went a little awry.

Mick McElkenny, a security guard on the day, remembers it a little differently. He had imagined there wouldn't be much need for his intervention at a garden party in the Aras but how wrong he was.

"The visitors to the party were supposed to be seated – and remain in their seats – but there was too much excitement and everybody got up and swarmed towards the president. There was absolute chaos, so we had to go in twice and move them back," he said.

Later, at a much more sedate buffet and drinks reception in Iveagh House, Breda lined up to meet the president once again.

"We went up this very elegant staircase and Mr and Mrs Lemass were at the top. There was an orchestra playing. It was like Vienna in the imperial days.

"We waited for President Kennedy. I remember I was standing by the Indian Ambassador. When he got to Paddy, President Kennedy said 'I'll be with you on Saturday', and two or three people further down he left the line of VIPs and went over to the buffet tables to the staff with his two hands outstretched to meet them.

"He was the consummate politician, that I will never forget, and of course they were thrilled," she said.

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life