If you plan to tour Ireland during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations this year, consider spending some time tracing Kennedy family history. Both sides of JFK’s Irish ancestry came to America during the mid-19th Century.
They were escaping the devastating potato famine that killed more than a million, destroyed the economy and made thousands of families desperate to find new lives in America. More than 100,000 Irish immigrants, mostly from poor rural areas, crossed the Atlantic to Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Among the 10,000 who settled in Boston were the Fitzgeralds, JFK’s mother’s family, from Bruff, County Limerick, and the Kennedys from Dunganstown, County Wexford.
Bruff, County Limerick: Home to the family of JFK’s mother, Bruff is a small village in the middle of Ireland, on the outskirts of the city of Limerick. With a population of 150,000, Limerick is situated on the Shannon River and a 20-minute drive from Shannon Airport. The Lough Gur (Lake Gur) area near Bruff is great for hiking and outdoor activities. It’s also an area filled with ancient Irish history and archaeology.
Visiting Limerick: If you happen to be there for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend celebrations, you’ll find many ways to be part of the annual Irish national holiday. On Saturday, March 15, and Sunday, March 16, attend the horse races at the Limerick Racecourse in Greenmount Park, starting at 2:30 pm. President John F. Kennedy visited the park and gave a speech in June 1963. His daughter, Caroline, spoke at a memorial service there on the 50th anniversary of the event last June. Another Kennedy memory is the Honey Fitz, a small theater in Limerick, named after JFK’s grandfather’s nickname. John Francis Fitzgerald was mayor of Boston in the first decade of the 20th Century.
Absolute Hotel (1 Sir Harrys Mall, Limerick) The modern hostelry beside the Shannon river is also next to one of Limerick’s historic tourist sites, King John’s Castle. The Absolute offers a package that includes dinner at its ABG Restaurant with a bottle of wine, room and breakfast from $170.
Dunganstown, Wexford: JFK also visited the ancestral home of his father’s family, the Kennedys, in June 1963. The modest cottage of his great grandfather, Patrick Kennedy, who emigrated to Boston in 1848, is preserved today as a museum. The Kennedy Homestead is a popular tourist destination and the epicenter of Kennedy travel in Ireland. There’s also the John F. Kennedy Arboretum, dedicated to the late president’s memory. The park is four miles away in New Ross. Dunganstown is on the River Barrow in Southeastern Ireland near the Irish Sea. The closest airport is 30 miles away in Waterford and Dublin Airport is 120 miles away.
Waterford: The city, world famous for its crystal products, is just eight miles from Dunganstown, and offers considerably more choices of restaurants and hotels. A highlight of visiting Waterford is a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory and observing artists at work on the world famous products.
The four-star Waterford Castle Hotel, located in an historic fortress built in the 6th Century, is on scenic Ballinakill Island next to the city, and surrounded by a golf course. Room rates are from $147 a night. The hotel’s Munster Room Restaurant serves both traditional Irish and French cuisine, with dinner and wine from $40.
Founded by Vikings, Waterford celebrated its 1,100th birthday this year. During his visit to Ireland in 1963, President Kennedy was given a Waterford Crystal Commemorative Cup. It’s now on display in the JFK Presidential Library in Boston.
Ted Sherman has spent a lifetime traveling. With journeys to every continent, almost 100 cruises and multiple group tours, he enjoys sharing his travel experiences and knowledge with others. Follow Ted on Twitter, @travel4seniors and on his travel blog, travel4seniors.
More from this contributor:
Designer Shopping for Less in Milan, Italy
5 Historic Restaurants in Hollywood
Chartres, France: Our Visit to the Historic Cathedral