About Scoil Mhuire
News Letter
Contact Us
Local History

Kennedy Park and Arboretum

The Fountain

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 Government'.
 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. 

At the 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 Hill
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.

Please return to Local History