Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

The day Nancy Reagan charmed Tipperary village of Ballyporeen

Mrs Reagan is given the flowers by little Laura O’Farrell in Ballyporeen
Mrs Reagan is given the flowers by little Laura O’Farrell in Ballyporeen
Nancy Reagan with husband Ronald
Nancy Reagan with husband Ronald
Nancy Reagan with President Barack Obama in 2009

By Ralph Riegel and Ciara Treacy

Nancy Reagan will be fondly remembered as the First Lady who graciously accepted flowers from a little girl, sipped on Carolans cream liqueur and wrote letters to her hosts over 30 years after visiting Co Tipperary.

Mary O’Farrell hails from President Ronald Reagan’s ancestral home in Ballyporeen, which the couple visited on June 3, 1984.

“One of my fondest memories is when our six-year-old daughter Laura had a posy of flowers to present to Mrs Reagan when she arrived,” she recalled, paying tribute to Mrs Reagan, who had travelled with her husband to the birthplace of the President’s great-grandfather Michael.

“Laura got a bit tired, we had taught her to curtsey and all that, but when they came she said: ‘Here, Mrs Reagan’ and just handed them to her — and she took them so graciously.

“When they went outside to see the show that was being put on, I asked would I take the flowers and she said: ‘Oh no, these are the first I’ve got since we came here’.

“We found her to be an absolute lady.”

Mrs O’Farrell and late husband John owned the local pub, which was renamed after the President.

The interior of the pub was later shipped to the Ronald Reagan President Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California, where it was completely reassembled as one of the key exhibits.

At its opening in 2005 the O’Farrells again met with Mrs Reagan, who had continued to write to them every Christmas.

“She spent 45 minutes talking about how much the President loved Ballyporeen. We were amazed,” she added.

The late RTE presenter Derek Davis, who covered the Ballyporeen visit, previously recalled how US officials — including the Secret Service — consulted as much with Mrs Reagan as her husband.

She was consulted about the menu for the State dinner and personally directed Presidential staff to liaise with the Irish authorities over the precise cooking of the meal — even down to the amount of butter that was being used during the cooking of the fish starter.

She warned her husband’s digestive system didn’t respond well to overly rich and butter-laden foods, and was consulted about her husband’s visit to Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen.

After her input, it was agreed that President Reagan would drink a pint of Smithwick’s Ale rather than Guinness — amid concerns that the richness of a pint of stout might upset her husband’s stomach.

“She was an amazing lady,” said the late councillor Con Donovan, who was instrumental in that 1984 Presidential visit.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph