Despite the allure of the beautiful weather, last night the National Library Seminar room was full of enthusiastic history fans. Helping us understand the background to JFK’s visit from RTÉ’s perspective to Ireland during those 4 days in June 1963, Ryan Tubridy, author of JFK in Ireland delivered a compelling introduction to the evening. Setting the scene with 1963’s Reeling in the Years, the audience was transported back to that summer when the Beatles dominated the charts and the most charismatic of American President’s, JFK, visited his ancestral homeland.
During Ryan’s research of his JFK book, he met with the legendary Ted Sorrensen, JFK’s speechwriter. Sorrensen had accompanied JFK on that historic visit to Berlin, where he made perhaps his most famous speech, and to Ireland. Amongst the things they discussed, Sorrensen talked of JFK’s reaction to landing on Irish soil, his welcome receptions, and and the amusing cultural differences between the German and Irish crowds. Sorrensen’s recollections of JFK’s views on the Irish, as recounted by Ryan, brought the man and the visit alive.
Liam Wylie, Curator of RTÉ’s vast JFK exhibition, spoke about the preparations for the visit. Being just over a year old, the fledgling national broadcaster sought advice from the BBC, which Liam had discovered in the BBC archives. The Archive footage showed nearly 30 BBC vans rolling over the border, on their way to support the biggest ever OB undertaking RTÉ had faced!
Godfrey Graham, Award winning Cameraman who is both a photographer and film cameraman, was literally feet away from JFK throught his visit. Chatting to Ryan about the man’s charisma, he also recalled the deep mutual respect DeValera and JFK had for each other, as was apparent from their meetings in Aras an Uachtarain. Godfrey’s first hand account of both the man and the logistics of the day were one of the highlights of the event.
John O’Regan, whose “Reeling in the Years” is arguably one of RTÉ’s most popular series ever, discussed the logistics involved in today’s major events, and how they differ from the events of yesterday. John discussed the large scale activities involved in organising major events such as Queen Elizabeth II’s visit, and Obama’s visit to Ireland.
A very enjoyable evening for all, we’d particularly like to thank the National Library for inviting us to participate in their series of JFK talks!