50 years on: Derry’s JFK tribute recalled

Foyle MP Eddie McAteer signs a Book of Condolence for President John Kennedy which was opened at Derry's Guildhall . Pictured with him are Nationalist members of the local Corporation. They include James Hegarty, James Doherty, and Paddy Friel. [17-11-13 SML 105]
Foyle MP Eddie McAteer signs a Book of Condolence for President John Kennedy which was opened at Derry's Guildhall . Pictured with him are Nationalist members of the local Corporation. They include James Hegarty, James Doherty, and Paddy Friel. [17-11-13 SML 105]

AT PRESENT, in the United States, arrangements are being finalised to commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic events in recent modern history - an event which to this very day continues to reverberate through the American subconscious: the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

The old saying goes that everyone knows where they were when they were first told of Kennedy’s death.

The Stars and Stripes at the US Navy's communications base at Clooney flies at half mast following President Kennedy's assassination. It remained at half mast for thirty days. [17-11-13 SML 103]

The Stars and Stripes at the US Navy's communications base at Clooney flies at half mast following President Kennedy's assassination. It remained at half mast for thirty days. [17-11-13 SML 103]

Indeed, the former President’s death was particularly poignant for Irish people who just a few short months before had warmly greeted him and his wife, Jacqueline, when they travelled to Ireland to visit the birthplace of his ancestors.

Just days after the assassination in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, Derry people of all ages queued in their hundreds to sign the Book of Condolences for the dead president at the city’s Guildhall.

Even during spells of heavy rain, the numbers waiting their turn seldom diminished and, by 5pm, when the book was scheduled to close for the day, well in excess of 2,000 people had written their signature of sympathy.

There were old and young in the procession to the book, which was located on a table near the main Guildhall entrance. Two US Navymen stood sentinel between framed photographs, draped in black, of the murdered President and his family.

A young boy, accompanied by his parents, signs the Book of Condolence for President John F Kennedy which was opened at the US Naval Communications base at Clooney in Derry's Waterside. A Navyman stands guard beside a table which includes a framed photo of the assassinated leader. The Stars and Stripes hangs in the background. [17-11-13 SML 100]

A young boy, accompanied by his parents, signs the Book of Condolence for President John F Kennedy which was opened at the US Naval Communications base at Clooney in Derry's Waterside. A Navyman stands guard beside a table which includes a framed photo of the assassinated leader. The Stars and Stripes hangs in the background. [17-11-13 SML 100]

Prayers were offered in every church of denomination on Sunday while there was a special service of remembrance at Ebrington Presbyterian Church. There were also Requiem Masses in all the Catholic churches in the city.

About 120 US Navy officers, ratings and their wives attended the united Protestant service in Ebrington church. The base executive, Commander E.H. Friez, represented the commander, Captain RG Merritt.

The flag at the US naval base at Clooney flew at half mast for thirty days.

A spokesman at the base said they were overwhelmed at the response of the citizens of Derry and “deeply appreciated it.”

A section of the throng which queued to sign a Book of Condolence at the US Naval Communication base at Clooney which was opened following President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. [17-11-13 SML 101]

A section of the throng which queued to sign a Book of Condolence at the US Naval Communication base at Clooney which was opened following President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. [17-11-13 SML 101]

Local nurses are among those pictured outside St Columb's Church, Chapel Road, where a special Requiem Mass in memory of President Kennedy took place. [17-11-13 SML 102]

Local nurses are among those pictured outside St Columb's Church, Chapel Road, where a special Requiem Mass in memory of President Kennedy took place. [17-11-13 SML 102]

US Navy personnel attend a special Requiem Mass for President Kennedy at St Columb's Church, Chapel Road, in the city's Waterside. [17-11-13 SML 104]

US Navy personnel attend a special Requiem Mass for President Kennedy at St Columb's Church, Chapel Road, in the city's Waterside. [17-11-13 SML 104]

President Kennedy's limousine makes its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas just seconds before he was assassinated by a gunman on November 22, 1963.

President Kennedy's limousine makes its way through Dealey Plaza in Dallas just seconds before he was assassinated by a gunman on November 22, 1963.

The Derry Journal's front page from November 26, 1963, reports on assassinated US President John F Kennedy's funeral in Washington DC.

The Derry Journal's front page from November 26, 1963, reports on assassinated US President John F Kennedy's funeral in Washington DC.