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Birdseye View From theTop of a Bus Shelter

Philip Hamell

At the time of President Kennedy’s visit, I was 9 and half years of age. I remember walking to the corner of Drumcondra Road and Griffith Avenue, just below the junction on the way into town, there was a green metal bus shelter. My neighbour, Mr Garvan very kindly lifted me up on the top of the bus shelter with all the older boys in the neighbourhood so I could have a better view. I was delighted and surprised at suddenly having such a good view of the road that the president would travel on. I remember it was a beautiful sunny day and looking down to see my knees swinging over the bus shelter. The first people we saw were the security men travelling on motorbikes, which was very exciting itself. One or two cars came before the President’s car. I remember the car distinctly, it was a blue Lincoln Continental Convertible. It was bigger than any car I had seen before and very different as most cars back then were black. To my surprise, the President was standing up in the car waving and smiling. My memory is that he was tanned with beautiful white teeth. He looked very healthy and well fed unlike how many people looked at that time. There are a variety of reasons why I think his visit was significant to many at the time. Firstly, he was Irish, Kennedy was an Irish name. He was Catholic, the first Catholic President of the United States. He was also the most powerful man in the world. As a child, I remember very well the threat and fear of nuclear war. Every time a plane flew over, you would wonder was it carrying a bomb. Just less than a year before Kennedy had brought a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I think it was hugely important to the Irish people that Kennedy had chosen to visit Ireland as part of his European tour. To so many Irish people, he was our President.

- in Arrival in Dublin