Park and Arboretum
At the entrance to J.F. Kennedy Park is a fountain with the
famous words you are listening to: "Ask not what your
country can do for you- ask what you can do for your
country." These famous words were said by President
Kennedy on Jan.20th 1961 at his inaugural speech or the day he
became President of the U.S. It is also
written in Irish: "Ná fiafraigh cén mhaith duit do
thír. Fiafraigh cén mhaith don tír duit féin".
President Kennedy visited the homestead of his great
grand-father on June 27 1963 and sadly on Nov.22 of that year
he was assassinated.
The park is dedicated to the memory of John F.Kennedy . It
covers over 600 acres with over 4,500 trees and shrubs
from all over the world and is situated on the southern slopes
of Slieve Coillte.There is a fine Visitor Centre there built
with Liscannor Stone. The word arboretum comes from the Latin
word for a tree-arbor. The Irish word for a tree is crann and
so a place with lots of trees (arboretum) is "crannlann" in
Irish. Also Slieve (Sliabh) Coillte means "wooded mountain".
Opening Kennedy Park May 29, 1968
This picture shows President Éamonn de Valera unveiling the
stone plaque at the opening. Even though an old man, he also
attended President Kenedy's funeral in 1963. Also in the
picture is Fr. Mernagh who was then a curate in Ballykelly.
The plaque reads:'This park is dedicated
to the memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President o the
United States of America, 20th January 1961 to 22nd
November 1963. It is a tribute to the life and work of
President Kennedy from United States citizens of Irish origin,
organised by the combined efforts of Irish American Societies
and executed through the co-operation of the Irish
The Kennedy family were represented by Eunice
Shriver (John F's sister) and her daughter Maria who was 13
years old at the time. She married Arnold
Schwarzgenegger, the Governor of California. Also there was Ted
Kennedy's wife Joan.
The park was paid for by American citizens of Irish origin and
the Irish government. The land for the park was bought from
Frank Doyle who lived in Ballysop House. This house no longer
stands. The park and arboretum is now controlled and run by Dúchas,
The Heritage Service.
opening of John F.Kennedy Park by Uachtarán Éamon de Valera
on May 29th 1968 were Joan Kennedy (Ted’s wife),
her daughter Maria, and Eunice Shriver.
We in fifth and sixth class visited Kennedy Park for an
educational school trip. We also visited the monuments of
the 1798 Rebel Camp Sites on top of Slieve Coillte and
at Ballysop. We learned a lot about the park and we hope you
too will enjoy your visit there.
Some lovely flowers and shrubs at Kennedy Park
We have always liked Kennedy Park in Scoil Mhuire. It's only over a mile from
the school. We like the beautiful scenery, the lake, the wildlife and the fun
playground.In order to keep the park and arboretum clean and beautiful
always we have suggested these ideas:
- Put your litter in the bins that are supplied in the different areas
around the park
- Do not vandalise the trees, shrubs or flowers
- Keep dogs on leashes at all times.
- Always have younger children under supervision
- No loud noise and music or ball games as these disturb people who
want peace and quiet in the park
Lake and stream that flows into it
Kennedy Park is suitable for all ages.The younger children could play in the
playground and maze. They could also feed the ducks or take a trip on the pony
and trap around the park. The older kids could go and visit the fountain or
play in the wide open areas there. Adults could go for a stroll on the grounds
or to the Visitor Centre and see a video about the park. They can also visit
the tea rooms. There are also picnic tables around the park for families and
well sign posted walks.
Kennedy Park is truly a great place to visit.
The following is the first and last verses of a ballad called
'Slieve Coillte and Ballysop' written by the local poet, Pat Hickey from
Ballykelly, who died on June 6, 1987. It was composed by Pat to mark the
opening of J.F.Kennedy Park on Wednesday,May 29,1968.
In the Barony of Shelburne, there stands Sliabh Coillte
As fortune's wheels do turn, will be more historic still
It's seen its day of glory, but the glorious one will be
When its top,will plant the plot,to Kennedy's memory.
When this great array gets in full sway,and the visitors come o'er
What meets their gaze will them amaze the likes not seen before
God rest you John F.Kennedy, you were loved by one and all
'Though we'll be gone you'll still live on,until the final trumpet calls.
return to Local History