Irish documentary telling the story of John F. Kennedy’s visit to Galway to be showcased at major museums

A new, Irish documentary directed by Galway native Pamela Finn will be showcased at the JFK Hyannis Museum Cape Cod, Massachusetts United States and Galway City Museum this summer.

In June 1963, President John F. Kennedy made a visit which would change America and the rest of the world's perception of Ireland forever. Kennedy referred to his visit to Ireland as “the best four days of his life”. One of those days, June 29, was spent in Galway, known for its long winding promenade, beautiful beaches and traditional Gaeltacht culture of music, dancing and Irish language. A documentary film directed by Pamela Finn and edited by Sean Treacey, told through the eyes of residents who were present on the day, the film recalls the euphoric excitement felt within the local community. Nobody in Galway had ever experienced such privilege before, nor had they felt such an atmosphere, and they’d certainly never met someone as famous as the President of the United States.

From the excitement of seeing a helicopter for the first time as the presidential entourage landed on the sports ground, to the cheers of crowds lining the streets and the footsteps of local children Irish dancing, the visit had an unforgettable impact on the people of Galway. Now, for the first time, they share their stories of the day they met Kennedy with the world, and how their distinct, Western Irish culture charmed him – and how he charmed them. Norrie Quinn was thirteen when the President visited her home town, and was one of the Irish dancers tasked with entertaining him in Eyre Square, the beating heart of Galway City. She recalls the nerves she felt over getting her steps wrong. Carmel Kenny was in her fourth year of national school when she was chosen to form part of the human flag for the President's arrival; she shares her pleasant surprise at his relaxed demeanour, and how he shunned his security staff to say hello to the children. Meanwhile, Stan Shields, a journalist from local Galway newspaper The Connacht Tribune, speaks of Kennedy’s down to earth nature, and fondly recalls the President calling him a ‘friend’. Anthony Ryan speaks of the Kennedy’s kindness, as he stopped his motorcade at the family’s home on the three mile drive to Salthill, Galway’s promenade, simply to wish Ryan’s elderly mother well, and shake her hand.

Following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, at the request of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Galway man Commandant Leo Quinlan was invited to attend the funeral amongst world leaders. Quinlan acted as one of the twenty-six to provide a guard of honour at the President’s graveside. In the documentary, he speaks candidly of his memories of that crisp, cold November day, as he witnessed Mrs Kennedy “wiping away her tears”. One message rings strong through the documentary: in the one and a half hours JFK was in Galway, he made a strong, lasting impression upon the local people, and built a connection between America and Ireland that would travel through generations. The project, co-funded by Galway City Council also also brings to live a vibrant city, shot beautifully, with sweeping views of the iconic ‘Galway Bay’ and renowned Claddagh basin. Brian Barrett of Galway City Council commented:I would like to congratulate the team who produced this wonderful film. Galway City Council wishes to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the visit of President John F Kennedy to Galway City and recognise the importance of this commemoration, this documentary acts as a unique oral history.

Galway is home to a wonderful and vibrant arts scene and we are delighted to co-fund a project that combines storytelling and heritage. JFK: The Three Miles marks Finn’s directorial debut. Hailing from Galway, and having spent a lifetime working in the media, Finn has always had a passion for television and film. She runs a thriving PR firm with an emphasis on the arts, has worked as a TV presenter, created The Stitch Show on Ireland’s National Broadcast Station, RTE. In 2022, she worked alongside a Sundance Award Winning Director as Casting Director for a major film documentary hitting cinemas in 2024. Finn created JFK: The Three Miles because she wanted to share the story of a remarkable man and the generational impact of his visit. Director of JFK Hyannis Museum, Wendy Northcross commented: “With all the stories told about President Kennedy and his family’s impact on people around the world, it is gratifying to find new ones such as those told in JFK: The Three Miles. In this documentary, it is evident how much President Kennedy treasured his shared heritage with the people of Galway and Ireland. The JFK Hyannis Museum is grateful to be the steward of this film and to share it with our guests from around the world.”

The documentary will be available to view via jfkthethreemiles.com after its premiere later this week.

 

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