Irish woman Dot was friends with US presidents, royalty

Members of the US political dynasty the Kennedys are to visit Ireland to open an exhibition about the late Dot Tubridy, who was a family friend.

Irish woman Dot was friends with US presidents, royalty

Members of the US political dynasty the Kennedys are to visit Ireland to open an exhibition about the late Dot Tubridy, who was a family friend. The exhibition includes letters from US presidents and celebrities, as well as taoisigh and royalty.

In May, Robert Kennedy’s daughter Courtney will open the ‘Dear Dot’ display of pictures and memorabilia from a collection of 10,000 pieces owned by Dot. Waterford Crystal will create a memorial piece to Dot, the first woman to present a bowl of shamrock to a US president. It will be inscribed with her favourite saying, ‘May the Road Rise With You and the Wind Be at Your Back’. Correspondence includes letters from JFK, Jackie and Ted Kennedy, as well as from crooners Bing Crosby and Andy Williams and Queen Elizabeth II.

The exhibition will coincide with the first anniversary of the death of Dot (Dorothy), who passed away last year at her home in Dublin, at the age of 92. She was one of the most understated, yet influential women of her generation and was even consulted on the itinerary for US president John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963.

A native of Kilkenny, she married Captain Michael Tubridy, a renowned showjumper with the army equestrian team and an All-Ireland senior football Cork medal-winner. The couple travelled to New York in 1949 for an international showjumping competition, where Dot met Ethel Skakel, before the latter’s marriage to Robert Kennedy.

The pair became life-long friends and the reason why the Kennedys offered Dot the hand of friendship on the sudden death of Captain Tubridy, who fell from a horse while managing Trimblestown Stud, outside Trim, Co Meath.

She then took on a role as Irish representative of Waterford Crystal in the US and presented the bowl of shamrock to John F Kennedy. After Dot died, her nephew, Eric Lawlor, asked her grandchildren if he could relate her fantastic life by displaying her memorabilia.

“It’s a fantastic and untold story and ironic that I only live in Kildalkey, only up the road the road from Trimbelstown Stud, in Trim,” said Eric. “My aunt was such an understated lady. She even asked, before her death, to delay the announcement, because she didn’t want any fuss. Her grandchildren sent me down eight boxes of autographs, photographs, US election campaign buttons, and many letters.

Geraldine Duignan of Trim Tourism Network holding one of the pieces of the 'Dear Dot' collection to be opened by Courtney Kennedy in Meath in May
Geraldine Duignan of Trim Tourism Network holding one of the pieces of the 'Dear Dot' collection to be opened by Courtney Kennedy in Meath in May

“There are letters from Arnold Swarznegger, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, JFK, Robert and Ted Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Canadian president, Pierre Tudeau, as well as Taoisigh Bertie Ahern, Jack Lynch, and Charlie Haughey.”

She was a founder of the Irish branch of the Special Olympics and there’s even a letter from Queen Elizabeth II to politely say she couldn’t support the Olympics, as Ireland wasn’t in the Commonwealth.

“You’re looking through family photo albums and, all of a sudden, you come across your aunt lying on a sun lounger on holiday with John F Kennedy. It’s mind-blowing,” Mr Lawlor said. “She was also involved in the peace process, becoming a founding member of the Irish Fund and Co-operation Ireland and there are pictures of her with John Hume.

“She was a woman who seemed to open doors for people. I’m in shock and awe looking through this. I never thought I’d be ringing Joe Kennedy, in the US, and being instantly recognised, as soon as I mentioned Dot Tubridy.”

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