Denis Fahey recalls the former American President’s visit to Ireland in 1879


President Biden will be the eighth sitting American president to visit Ireland but three other Presidents came after their terms of office had ended, Ulysses S Grant in 1879, Dwight Eisenhower in 1962 and Jimmy Carter in 1995. Harry Truman passed through Shannon Airport in 1964.

Grant, the commander of the Union army during the final stages of the Civil War and the president from 1869 to 1877, was the most respected American of his time and a familiar name in Ireland because 150,000 Irishmen had fought under him.

After leaving office, he and his wife Julia embarked on a trip around the world. Its purpose was mainly to indulge their love of travel but the project had the encouragement of his successor, President Rutherford Hayes, who wanted to raise America’s profile as a major country. He funded the trip from his own resources but the State Department wrote to consuls in many countries advising them that he might visit and asking them to facilitate him.

The Grants sailed from Philadelphia in the steam-ship Indiana, on May 17th, 1877, and reached Queenstown (Cobh) ten days later. They didn’t disembark, but the general told a delegation from the town that he hoped to visit Ireland later. The ship then continued to Liverpool where the tour commenced.

During the following nineteen months they were feted by monarchs, prime ministers and mayors in England, Scotland, ten Continental countries and the Middle East before returning to London. Julia then went to Southampton to stay with their married daughter but Grant and four companions sailed from Holyhead to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) on Friday, January 3rd, 1879.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own