A special Secret Service mission ordered by John F Kennedy involved a search for a precious heirloom from the old family homestead in Bruff, it was recalled yesterday in the Co Limerick town.
When Thomas Fitzgerald emigrated from Bruff in 1852, one of the few worldly possessions be brought with him was the family bible.
JFK, his great grandson, sent two Secret Service agents to Boston prior to his inauguration to retrieve the bible.
As Bruff took a special place in commemoration ceremonies across the world yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, Paul Dennehy, chairman of the local heritage group, said: “When Thomas Fitzgerald died, the bible was passed down to his descendants. President Kennedy wanted it for his swearing-in and the Secret Service foundit at a Kennedy home in Boston, wrapped in a bag. They brought it back to Washington and it was used for the inauguration.
“The bible contains details of family births and marriages. It is now in the Kennedy Library in Boston.”
Addressing the congregation at a special Mass at the local St Peter and Paul church, the Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, said details of Thomas Fitzgerald’s birth and baptism still rest in the church sacristy.
Bishop Leahy said: “Thomas Fitzgerald’s son, John ‘Honey Fitz’ Fitzgerald went on to become Mayor of Boston in 1906. So there seems to be something in the claim that the future president inherited his political gene from the Fitzgerald side of the family who came from this parish.”
Relatives of JFK at the Mass were led by the president’s fourth cousin, Michael Fitzgerald, 74, who lives at Caherguillamore, Bruff.
He said: “It’s great we are all gathered to remember his greatness. We are delighted there is now a museum in the name of Thomas Fitzgerald to put Bruff on the map as the home place of President Kennedy’s great grandfather and where his family still live to this day.”
A US flag raised outside the Thomas Fitzgerald Centre, was presented by Lieut/Comm Conor Kirwan, captain of the naval vessel, LE Orla.
The chairman of Limerick County Council, John Sheahan, yesterday handed over the council’s collection of photographs and other memorabilia from President Kennedy’s visit to Greenpark racecourse during his 1963 Irish visit where he was greeded by the Mayor of Limerick, Frances Condell, whose speech captivated John F Kennedy.
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