Ireland's first 'influencer' and unofficial American ambassador remembered by Kennedys in Trim

Story by John Donohoe

Saturday, 25th May, 2019 5:19pm

Ireland's first 'influencer' and unofficial American ambassador remembered by Kennedys in Trim

Courtney Kennedy Hill,and Sydney Kennedy Lawford McKelvy at the launch of Dear Dot at Trim Visitor Centre. Photo: Enda Casey

Dot Tubridy, the woman who became an unofficial ambassador for Ireland, was remembered by two families – her own and her adopted family, the Kennedys of America, in a special exhibition launch in Trim.
Courtney Kennedy, daughter of Ethel and the late Bobby Kennedy, and her cousin, Sydney Lawford McKelvy, daughter of Patricia Kennedy and Peter Lawford, joined family and friends of Dot Tubridy for the opening of ' 'Dear Dot - Trim, Ireland and the Kennedy Clan', an exhibition of letters, memorabilia and photographs connected her and her late husband, Captain Mick Tubridy, an Irish showjumper who died in a riding accident at Trimblestown Stud in 1954.
After his death, Dot became a Waterford Crystal representative in the US, and was responsible for presenting the crystal bowl of shamrock to the US president on a St Patrick's Day.
She also continued a friendship with the Kennedys first made when she and Michael attended Madison Square horse show in New York, where Ethel Kennedy  - then Skakel - was also competing.
Dot's god-daughter, Courtney Kennedy, described her as “a very special woman” who not only brought so much of Ireland to the US, but also brought the US to Ireland.
“It was her that encouraged uncle Jack to come to Ireland  - and that was the start of the American people returning to Ireland in the 1960s and '70s,” she said.

Dot Tubridy with Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

She said that during the Northern Ireland troubles, Dot had the Kennedys introduce her to as many influential politicians and people as possible to discuss the situation in Ireland.
Mairead O'Dwyer of Failte Ireland said that no publicity budget in the world would buy what Dot Tubridy achieved on behalf of the people of Ireland every St Patrick's Day. Ib Jorgenson, who designed Dot's ballgowns for the inauguration balls of John F Kennedy in 1961, described her as a great friend and a great ambassador for Ireland.
“When she went to America, she brought top quality, like Waterford Glass – her standards were very high.”
He recalled her organising summer work for his daughter in Patricia Lawford's home in the States when the Lawfords needed someone around the house. 
Jorgenson arrived at Trim Visitor Centre in a 1965 Cadillac De Ville with the Kennedy women, and local girl Ariana Harris wearing a dress he had designed for Dot to wear in America for the inauguration.
Dot's grandson, Derry Gibson, who attended with his siblings, Aidan and Paula, agreed to present the dress to the National Museum.
Other family members attending included John, Anne and Dorothy Matthews, whose mother, Dorothy, was sister of Dot's mother, Julia Lawlor. 
Cmmdt Sharon Crean, Acting Commanding Officer at the Army Equitation School, attended, as did RTE's Ryan Tubridy, a relative of Captain Tubridy, and his daughters. He read a poem by John Hopkins, entitled 'Dad'.
Cork native Catherine Terry, who lives in Castleknock, and is a Bobby Kennedy aficionado, brought her 1960s Kennedy scrapbook, and Cllr Tom Kelly recalled that his mother was the midwife who delivered Dot's daughter, the late Aine Tubridy.
Oblivious to it all was a Romanian couple, Catalin and AnaMaria, who had been married in Dublin and arrived in Trim Castle Hotel for their wedding reception. They hopped into the Kennedy Cadillac for their wedding photos. A cavalcade of trucks passing through the town in a charity run were also oblivious to the fact that their horn honking was drowning out the speeches inside the visitor centre, but they had just gone through before chairman of organisers, Trim Tourism Network, Michael Hughes, asked for a minute's silence for Dot, a year after her passing.
A remarkable 1960 recording of John F Kennedy sending a message to the people of Ireland and Dot on an old gramophone record was then played, in a very poignant touch. It was recorded following his selection as the Democratic candidate for presidency.
The exhibition was made possible by the generosity of the Gibson family and Dot's nephew, Eric Lawlor, who lives in Trim.


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