Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States and the only one to resign the office, visited Ireland from October 3rd-5th, 1970.
I clearly remember the visit because I was actually an eyewitness to one of Nixon’s major stop-offs, lining out with the rest of my 4th class schoolmates in my home town of Kildare, to catch a momentary glance of the President and his wife, Pat – herself a Ryan of Mayo stock – as they arrived to watch some local Irish dancers in the town square.
But also because of a black and white photograph from the day that made one of the national newspapers of Tricky Dicky shaking hands with my kid sister that has long since been on public display in the O’Mahony Kildare household.
However there was much about Nixon’s trip that I didn’t know. At the time, for example, I’d no idea Nixon was only in Kildare on his way back from Timahoe in the north of the county to visit where his Quaker ancestors, Thomas and Sarah Milhous, had left for Pennsylvania in 1729.
And to this day I’m amazed at the number of Irish people who have no memory at all of the visit.
So, four decades on, I was curious to piece together a fuller picture of a significant moment in Irish history that has been largely forgotten, overshadowed in our collective memory particularly by the earlier visit of Nixon’s great archrival, JFK.