'Dear Dot' Trim Ireland and the Kennedy Clan
May 12 2019 - Aug 12 2019
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Market House, Trim, Meath,
The opening words of each letter from every member of the Kennedy family as they wrote to Dorothy Tubridy, the woman who became their best friend in Ireland, who became as close as a sister to them, and who was a de facto ambassador.
The opening words of each letter from every member of the Kennedy family as they wrote to Dorothy Tubridy, the woman who became their best friend in Ireland, who became as close as a sister to them, and who was a de facto ambassador to America for this country for over 50 years.
The Kilkenny born lady – who would spend an all too short part of her life in county Meath, close to Trim – became an extended member of the famous American political dynasty through her friendship with Ethel and Robert Kennedy, whose daughter Courtney is her Goddaughter.
There are many who would use such connections to their own advantage.Dot Tubridy never exploited her relationship with the Kennedys for such purposes. Instead, she used it to benefit the country, from her involvement in the planning for President John F Kennedy’s visit to Ireland in 1963, to the Northern Ireland Peace Process of the 1990s.
And it was a real friendship, born when Dot ‘s husband, the daring Captain Michael Tubridy, footballer and army showjumper, met fellow equestrian Ethel Skakel, fiancée of Bobby Kennedy, at a showjumping event in Madison Square Gardens in 1949. The two young couples bonded and became close, and when Michael Tubridy was tragically killed in a horseriding accident in Trimblestown in 1954,the young widow was invited to America to spend time with the Kennedy clan in Florida.
Through her friendship with Bobby and Ethel, Dot also met John Kennedy and Jackie Bouvier when they paid a brief visit to Ireland on their honeymoon in 1955.
Dot Tubridy was appointed Waterford Glass representative in the United States following her husband’s death , and became a high profile ambassador for Ireland and its tourism and fashion industry on American TV and radio. She was an attractive young woman who used her public relations skills to promote the country to the highest level, and it was her idea to present a crystal bowl to the President of the United States in the White House every St Patrick’s Day.
She also became deeply involved in the Kennedy family’s election campaigns, from Senator John F Kennedy’s race for the Democratic Party nomination, working with him on television appearances during primaries in West Virginia and Wisconsin, to Edward Kennedy’s presidential bid in 1980.
President John F Kennedy sent her his Irish itinerary for approval in 1963 – in this exhibition there is a document where she corrects the term ‘Parliament’ to ‘Dail Eireann’.
His original plan was just to visit Dublin – it was Dot who encouraged him to travel around the country to other cities – Limerick, Galway and Cork – by helicopter.
For over half a century, the Kennedy clan remained in correspondence with Dot Tubridy, evident through the letters, cards, photographs, gifts, medals, and souvenirs on display in this exhibition, and she remained in constant touch with them, visiting them regularly in the United States.
Text: John Donohoe
Exhibition material: The Gibson and Lawlor families