By Anne O’Neill

Three of my most vivid memories from the early 1960’s concern a man who described himself as a ‘son of Ireland’.
One day in late 1962, when I was in senior infants in St Louis National School, Rathmines, I recall the head nun coming into our classroom. Sr Scholastica seldom disturbed class time, but when she did, we pupils knew that she had something important to say and, so it was on that autumn day.

Being a timid child and somewhat of a nervous disposition, I was immediately anxious as Sr Scholastica’s facial expression, framed by her white square wimple, was sombre.
“Now boys and girls,” she began, “I want you all to stand up, we’re going to say a prayer for peace.” Her face softened a little as she continued. “There is danger of a war starting all around the world but, if we pray, God will stop it happening.”

So it was that I and my classmates learned of the standoff between President John F Kennedy and Nikolai Khruschev resulting from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. It had brought the world to the brink of World War lll. When catastrophe was averted, at the eleventh hour, two weeks later, the entire world breathed a sigh of relief. Shortly thereafter, a new year began.

In early June 1963, my aunt Sr Mary Clare Molloy came home to Ireland on holidays from St. Louis, Missouri, where she was a Mercy Sister. There was always a lot of excitement in our family whenever a ‘Yank’ came to visit.
The celebrations were to be even more fulsome as my aunt’s homecoming coincided with the visit of President Kennedy to our shores.

On 26th June, 1963, huge crowds thronged the streets of Dublin to catch a glimpse of the 35th President as his motorcade wound its way through the streets of Dublin. Many people, whose homes were on the route, stood at their hall doors. The tall Georgian and Victorian buildings in the centre of Dublin city were perches for others who leaned out from the sash windows. Teenage boys clung precariously to lamp post tops.

My parents decided that my aunt, myself, and my sisters, would join my uncle and his family near to where they lived. We met them outside the Sacred Heart Home, Drumcondra Road, which was run, at that time, by the Sisters of Charity.

As luck would have it, my aunt, Sr. Mary Clare, stood out in the milling crowd in her long black habit with wimple and veil, as well as the starched white guimpe, which adorned the front of her habit.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own