June 21st 2013, will be a day in the history of the town of Bruff that generations will speak of for years to come. It was the day when the dream of a small group of people became a reality, they succeeded in bringing the daughter of an American President back to her roots.

It was a moving moment when the cavalcade of Caroline Kennedy, the only daughter of former American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy travelled along the Palatine Road early on Friday afternoon. Ms. Kennedy was retracing the footsteps of her great grandfather Thomas Fitz-gerald when he left his home and set out for a new life in the land of opportunity over one hundred and sixty years ago.

Bruff Heritage Group, a small dedicated group of six, succeeded in accomplishing a task that cities and much larger towns dreamed of with some very influential backers and supporters, yet on this occasion it was the small group in Bruff that managed one of the biggest coups in the country by bring Caroline Kennedy home.

A County title or even a Munster title may present itself every few years but the opportunity to have Caroline Kennedy come to visit, will only happen once. For the team involved in Bruff Heritage Group, the final whistle was blown and what had begun as a dream was now a reality. This team had scored an almighty win for Bruff.

For the past 50 years it was always felt in the town that an opportunity had been missed when President John F Kennedy came to Limerick but not to Bruff. Such a visit would have put Bruff on par with New Ross and may have saved the town from some of the losses it occurred over the last few years. Up to last Friday, commentators would have said that Bruff was 50 years behind New Ross. At 1.15pm last Friday, all that changed when Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving daughter of President John F Kennedy, accompanied by all her family stepped out onto the street of Bruff to be greeted by members of Bruff Heritage Group.

On her way to Bruff, Ms. Kennedy stopped at the Fitzgerald ancestral home at The Pike where a plaque to the Fitzgerald family was unveiled and the Fitzgerald Trail opened. There she was met by a number of locals including a cousin, Pat Moloney from Knockainey.



Next stop was the Church where Caroline Kennedy and her cousin Sydney Lawford McKelvy and their families were welcomed by Bruff Heritage Group chairman Paul Dennehy and members of the group.

Hundreds had gathered at the church to greet the visitors and they received warm greetings from all. At the entrance to the church they were greeted by Canon James Costello and Fr Foley and shown to the sacristy where local woman Joan Dempsey had the honour of taking the family through the parish records, right back to the 17th century. The family listened attentively to the detailed account of their ancestry being given by Joan. Caroline Kennedy and Sydney Lawford were then presented with two specially commissioned books by Canon Costello as president of Bruff Heritage Group. There was then a short prayer service in the church, in which all members of the family took an active role.



After the church service, the Kennedys along with members of the Bruff Heritage Group were invited as guests to a lunch hosted by Limerick County Council in the Old Church of Ireland building. It was a memorable event for 84 year old Bruff native Joe Shanahan who travelled down the Main Street of Bruff, the same street that he had played on as a child many years ago but on this occasion he was travelling under Garda escort. Joe Shanahan has spent most of his life in America. Little did he think then, as he played on those streets, that one day he would be leading the daughter of President Kennedy. Accompanying Joe was Michael Cronin, the man who first came up with the idea of forming a heritage group in Bruff with the intention of promoting Bruff through its heritage. Could he have ever imagined back in 2008, that such an idea was going to become such a success ?

The task of providing the lunch being hosted by Limerick County Council fell to Maurice Hehir, the proprietor of the Old Bakehouse, Bruff. The menu was based on locally sourced ingredients and living up to the great reputation that it has earned over the years, the management and staff of the Old Bakehouse pulled out all the stops and provided what, Caroline Kennedy herself described as one of the most beautiful meals that she had tasted.