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Documentary recalls impact of JFK’s three-mile trip through Galway

Nobody could have known how quickly the golden era would turn into the darkest day – but when US President John F Kennedy came to Ireland less than a year before his assassination, he reflected later on ‘the best four days’ of his life’.

One of those days – the one he spent in Galway City – is now the focus of a new documentary directed by Galway native Pamela Finn which will be showcased at the JFK Hyannis Museum Cape Cod, Massachusetts United States and Galway City Museum this summer.

JFK: The Three Miles – the distance from his arrival to his departure – is directed by Pamela Finn and edited by Séan Treacey, and it tells the story through the eyes of residents present on the day, recalling the euphoric excitement felt within the local community.

Among them is Norrie Quinn, who was thirteen when the President visited her hometown, one of the Irish dancers tasked with entertaining him in Eyre Square. 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.

Connacht Tribune photographer Stan Shields – who got closer than anyone to the President – 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, 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 brings to live a vibrant city, shot beautifully, with sweeping views of the iconic ‘Galway Bay’ and renowned Claddagh basin.

JFK: The Three Miles marks Pamela Finn’s directorial debut. Hailing from Galway, and having spent a lifetime working in the media, she has always had a passion for television and film.

She says that she made this documentary because she wanted to share the story of a remarkable man and the generational impact of his visit.

JFK: The Three Miles Premiere will be unveiled with a private screening in Galway’s Pálás Cinema on June 24 ahead of the US premiere at the JFK Hyannis Museum on June 30, and it will remain in both museums throughout the summer.

The documentary will also be available to view on

(Photo:  Connacht Tribune photographer Stan Shields’ iconic photo of President John F Kennedy on his visit to Galway in June 1963 – just five months before his assassination).

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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