Wednesday, June 05, 2013

JFK in Wales

I have often heard it said that JFK as a young man once visited Wales. The most convincing case for this assertion was given by Edward Nicholson, a London-born engineer who worked for William Randolph Hearst at St Donat's castle. According to him JFK along with his father Joseph (then a US ambassador in London) and other members of the Kennedy clan arrived at the luxurious Welsh retreat in July 1938. The future President was 21 years old at the time and spent 5 days holidaying there.

After JFK's assassination in November 1963 Nicholson was tracked down to Leeds where he had become a teacher to elaborate on the story. Reflecting on his time at St Donat's, he said: "Mr Kennedy came on a Thursday and stayed until the following Tuesday. He was a very active youngster full of life. He swam in the pool and was an excellent swimmer. I remember him doing some rock climbing, and he used to walk the nearby country lanes."

Nicholson went on to say that he took Kennedy to the lighthouse at Nash Point in the Vale of Glamorgan. Furthermore he stated that Kennedy visited Cardiff where he attended morning mass at St David's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Charles Street. He added: "I shook hands with the President. He was young and enthusiastic with a particular interest in economics. He asked a lot of questions about the Welsh language and how many people in Wales spoke it. He showed keen interest in Welsh industry, too."

I think that's almost enough quality information to justify a JFK bus tour of south Wales. For north Wales's links to the Kennedys see Jackie O in Llanfihangel- y-Traethau.