Turtle Bunbury

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By Turtle Bunbury

Ballygarris Cross, Co. Mayo, Sunday 2nd October 1970.

Katie Naughton watched the limousine approach her ivy-covered cottage through the autumnal drizzle and inhaled deeply. It would all be over in less than 20 minutes. The sprightly 70-year-old prayed everything would run as smoothly as the new linoleum floor she had just laid in her hall for this occasion.

The limousine drew up outside her door and out-stepped a 58-year-old American who was reputed to be her second cousin Patricia. The two women had never met before but, as a youngster, Katie had been adopted by a man called Pat McHugh who was apparently Patricia’s great-uncle.[i]

Patricia’s grandmother Catherine McHugh had emigrated to the USA over a century earlier. Patricia’s childhood had been a difficult one, perhaps typical of an Irish-American settler family, but her married life was anything but typical. For starters, her husband was Richard Nixon, 37th President of the USA.

Patricia Nixon was born in the small mining town of Ely, Nevada, on the afternoon of 16th March 1912.[ii] Her given name was Thelma Catherine Ryan. However, on account of the proximity of her birth to St. Patrick’s Day, her father referred to her as his “St. Patrick's babe in the morn” and nicknamed her ‘Pat’. She liked the name so much that she began calling herself ‘Patricia’. And just to cement her Patrician credentials, the Ryans opted to celebrate her birthday on 17th March instead of the 16th.

Two weeks before she accompanied her husband on his State visit to Ireland in 1970, Pat’s cousin Ed Sullivan of Bedford Town, New York, arrived in Ireland with a scrolled up family tree and a profound ambition to find some kinsfolk.

The First Lady’s grandfather Patrick Sarsfield Ryan was born in about 1834 in Hollymount midway between Ballinrobe and Claremorris, in Kilvindoney townland in the parish of Robeen, County Mayo.He emigrated to America in 1855, coming through Savannah, Georgia, on 8th February 1855.[iii] A Patrick Ryan of Ireland was naturalized in Savannah's City Court on 7th May 1856.

On 27th November 1857, he was married to Catherine McHugh (or McCue), the daughter of Patrick McHugh and Bridget Conroy and the granddaughter of Thomas Ryan and Bridget Ford Ryan. The wedding was conducted by the Rev. Peter Kelly and took place over a carriage shop where Mass was held on Wooster Street in Danbury, Fairfield County, Connecticut. Catherine had been in America for nearly two years, arriving on the final voyage of the "William Nelson" under its master Charles Cheevers. She arrived in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1855, after a very tempestuous journey during which a baby was born to one of her fellow emigrants. Her brother Thomas also emigrated, and possibly another brother John. Another brother James McHugh lived in Ballinrobe and never married.

By the time of the 1860 census, the Ryans were settled in Danbury with two small sons and 17-year-old Patrick McCue who was quite probably Katie Naughton’s great-uncle Pat.[iv] They would go on to have thirteen children, the fifth of whom was Mrs. Nixon’s father Will Ryan, born in Ridgefield, Connecticut.[v] The complete line up of children, ie: Pat Nixon's aunts and uncles, is as follows - Thomas Joseph Ryan (b. Sept.1858), John Matthew Ryan (b. April 1860), James Ryan, Mary Ellen Ryan (b. March 23, 1863), Willian Martin Ryan (b. Jan 6, 1866, father of Mrs Nixon), Catherine Agatha Ryan [Sister Thomas Anna, b. June 2,1869), Julia Ann Ryan (d. March 12, 1870), Patrick Ryan, Michael James Ryan (b. June 1, 1874), Francis Xavier Ryan (b. April 8, 1876), Anna Dolores Ryan (b. Feb.2 1878) and Joseph John (b. Sept. 13, 1880).

In August 1862, 28-year-old Patrick Ryan of Danbury, Connecticut, enlisted with the Union army and so entered the horrors of the American Civil War. [v.a] He served with C Company of the ‘Fairfield County’ or 17th Connecticut regiment. He fought at the battle of Chancellorville and was 'in the thick of the fighting for three days' at Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the war, in which he also appears to have been wounded.[vi] He was on East Cemetery Hill in Gettysburg on 2nd July 1863 while, as chance would have it, to his immediate left was Richard Nixon's grandfather, serving with the 75th Ohio Regiment. So, as James Tobin noted, 'the Nixon girls had two great-grandfathers fighting off a late evening attack by the Louisiana Tigers and a North Carolina regiment. At one point the Rebels broke through and there was hand to hand fighting until they were reinforced and the Confederates were pushed back.'

Catherine's brother Thomas McHugh was killed at the Battle of Fair Oaks in Virginia. It is to be noted that another member of C-Company of the 17th CT Regiment was a 26-year-old Irish-born Danbury hatter called John McHugh from Brookfield, Connecticut. Like Patrick Ryan, he was wounded at Gettysburg.

Patrick is later said to have stood guard over Dr. Samuel Mudd, a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the man who mended John Wilkes Booth's leg after the President's murder. [vi.a]

James Tobin, whose mother was a first cousin of Pat Nixon, suggests that after the Civil War, Patrick led 'a quiet life doing agricultural and estate work' in Bethel, Connecticut. Up until its secession in 1855, Bethel was part of the parish of Danbury but it gradually evolved into a town of its own. On both the 1870 and 1880 censuses, Patrick Ryan is described as worker in a hat factory, which lends further credence to the Danbury connection. Danbury was one of the biggest centres of hat production in the USA during the ate 19th century; by 1904 it was producing almost 25% of America's hats and known as Hat City. In the 1900 census, his profession was given as ‘casemaker’. Patrick S. Ryan died at Bethel on 27 November 1914. [Bethel used to be included as part of Danbury] He is buried in the old Catholic Cemetery on Sheridan St. in Danbury. It is not known where Catherine Jane Ryan was buried but she probably lies next to her husband in an unmarked grave.

Mrs. Nixon’s father William Martin Ryan, known as Will, was born on 6th January 1866, just months after the civil war ended. His birthplace was Ridgefield, a bustling agricultural town of some 2,200 people in the foothills of Connecticut’s Berkshire Mountains.

Little is known of Will Ryan’s younger years, save that he was raised as a Catholic and worked as a gold miner in the Black Hills of South Dakota. During this time he met Kate Bender (nee Halberstadt), a 30-year-old emigrant from Frankfurt, Germany, who had been left with two small children when her husband drowned during one of South Dakota’s deadly flash floods.[vii]

Will and Kate were married in 1908. Struggling for work, they moved to Nevada's White Pine County where copper had been discovered in 1906. On the 1910 census, William Ryan, a 42-year-old copper miner, was registered in Reipetown, one of the toughest towns in the state and a haven for liquor, gambling, and prostitution.[viii] He may have worked as a timekeeper in Ely’s Veteran mine.

It is not clear where Kate was at this time but, by the start of 1912, the Ryans had relocated to Ely, the county capital, with their two small sons, William and Thomas. [ix] They lived in a modest townhouse on Campton Street, just west of the county courthouse, which is almost certainly where Pat, their only daughter, was born in March 1912.

Kate Ryan understandably abhorred the rough and dangerous life meted out to mining families in Nevada. In later years, she and Will rarely spoke about those ‘hardscrabble days’ to their children.

While Pat was still a baby, they shifted west again to southern California, ultimately settling on a 10½-acre farm amongst the rural community of Artesia (present-day Cerritos) near Los Angeles.

Pat Nixon spent her childhood years on this farm, tending, planting and harvesting the vegetables -peppers, beets, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, corn, and barley - which were then sold from the back of the Ryan family truck to the surrounding towns.

She was only 13 years old when her mother succumbed to cancer. Thereafter she assumed the household duties on behalf of her by now ailing father and two teenage brothers. Will Ryan’s days were also numbered and the 64-year-old died in 1930 of silicosis, a respiratory disease directly linked to the introduction of pneumatic drills to copper mining.[x]

While at high school, the orphaned Pat earned some money working as a janitor and office clerk at a local bank. She went on to study merchandising at the University of Southern California where she paid her college tuition fees by holding down five different jobs, averaging forty hours a week, even during term time. An extremely diligent pupil, she graduated with honour in 1937 and secured work as a business and bookkeeping teacher at Whittier High School. She is also said to have lived in New York City for a period; James Tobin suggests she might have stayed with his mother, her first cousin, Josephine Rockwell.

One of her jobs at college was as an actress.[xi] In 1938 she was cast in a production of a mystery drama called “The Dark Tower” staged at an amateur playhouse in Whittier. One of her fellow cast members was a 25-year-old lawyer called Richard Milhouse Nixon.

As the future President put it in his memoirs, it was ‘a case of love at first sight’. That said, the loving was one-way traffic for quite a while as Pat rejected his first two offers for a date.

'Let's go for a long ride Sunday,’ he suggested in a letter.[xii] ‘Let's go to the mountains weekends; let's read books in front of fires; most of all, let's really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours.'

His courtship was to last nearly two years. He told her that his heart was 'filled with that grand poetic music' whenever he thought of her, that she was his 'dearest heart', that ‘every day and every night I want to see you and be with you … yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy.’ He often referred to her as 'thee' rather than 'you', which denotes a special intimacy in the Quaker faith.

‘Somehow there was something electric in the usually almost stifling air in Whittier. And now I know. An Irish gypsy who radiates all that is happy and beautiful was there. She left behind her a note addressed to a struggling barrister who looks from the window and dreams.'

Pat’s replies were rather more downbeat: 'In case I don't see you before, why don't you come early Wednesday (6) - and I'll see if I can burn a hamburger for you.'

He proposed to her on a cliff overlooking the Pacific and they were married on June 21, 1940 in a chapel at the famous Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

They honeymooned in Laredo, Texas, and Mexico City, before settling in an apartment in Whittier. Following the USA’s entry into the Second World War, Pat worked as a clerk for the Red Cross and a later as a government economist in San Francisco, while Nixon joined the Navy and went off to the South Pacific.

James Tobin tells how his mother Josephine Rockwell worked in Washington during the war years, and once hosted the Nixons when they visited. 'She pointed out the White House to Pat and Dick', says James. 'She said Dick was particularly interested in that.' The Rockwells were subseuqently invited to his inauguration and several other social events. 'President Nixon was wonderful toward us and we were very fond of him in spite of the later events', says James.

Nixon first ran for office in 1946, and though she said she despised politics, Pat campaigned vigorously alongside him as he rose through Congress and the Senate to become Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Nixon’s defeat by Jack Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election is often attributed to Kennedy’s wooing of the ‘Irish vote’. Nixon mused upon how best to deploy his own Irish roots. His mother, Hannah Milhouse, descended from a Quaker family from Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, who had moved to Timahoe, Co. Kildare, in the early 18th century. In 1729, Thomas Milhouse from Timahoe emigrated to Pennsylvania with his wife Sarah Mickle. They were Nixon’s sixth great-grandparents.

Nixon’s father Frank also had Irish roots and was descended from James Moore, born in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, in 1777.

Although raised as a Methodist, Frank joined the Quakers on his marriage and Richard Nixon was raised as a Quaker. But the wily Nixon realised that his Ulster-Quaker-Methodist roots would not secure the Irish Catholic vote.

In 1968, Nixon became President. Pat was to become not only the most world-travelled First Lady in history (a record she held until Hillary Clinton’s time) but also the first First Lady to visit a combat zone when she went to Vietnam.[xiii]

Nixon began plotting his visit to Ireland almost as soon as he took office, knowing how important it would be to win the Irish vote if he was to be re-elected. He focused on his Kildare roots, rather than his Ulster ones, declining an invitation from the Northern Premier Captain Terence O’Neill. The White House also turned their attention to his wife’s Irish ancestry and began “scouring the Irish countryside” for cousins.

In September 1970, Pat’s cousin Ed Sullivan was sent to Ireland to track down possible relatives.[xiv] He hit upon a rich seam of Ryans in and around Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, and by the time the Nixons arrived in Ireland ten days later, Sullivan and the US Embassy in Dublin had concocted a suitably quaint day-trip for the First Lady.

For Pat Nixon, the Mayo trip was a solo mission. Her husband was wrapped up in an urgent meeting at Kilfrush House in Co. Limerick with Henry Kissinger and others about how best to end the Vietnam War.

Her helicopter landed on the fair green in Ballinrobe early on a blustery Sunday morning. She was greeted by a brass band, Irish dancers, a young girl with a bouquet of flowers – and the all important television cameras to capture every step.[xv]

‘It’s all a lot of baloney’, remarked one Ballinrobe publican. ‘The town’s gone mad but its good for business’.

From Ballinrobe, she was escorted to meet her ‘nearest relative’, Katie Naughton, who magnanimously rose to the occasion, entertaining the First Lady for fifteen minutes with tea and home-baked raisin bread. Mrs. Nixon later described this brief encounter as the highlight of her European trip.[xvi]

Further visits with other ‘cousins’ followed, as did a trip to Robeen Church near Hollymount where her grandparents were apparently married, and the adjacent cemetery where many Ryans lie buried.[xvii] She was shown a tombstone, recently raised up from the ground, and told it was her great-grandfathers; the ‘faded letters’ had been usefully picked out in white paint. Her Robeen guide was another cousin, 96-year-old John Fahey, who wept when they met. The First Lady responded by warmly embracing the old timer and, with an arm around his shoulder, she said: ‘You're spry, and mighty nice, Mr. Fahey.’[xviii]

And there was a swift visit to a single-storey, earth-floored, thatch-roofed cattle shed in Kilvindoney townland which was where Patrick Sarsfield Ryan was reputedly born over 140 years earlier. The building was freshly whitewashed and painted for the occasion.[xix]

Ed Sullivan had also managed to muster up some forty Ryan relatives, all dressed in their Sunday best, for a private luncheon with the First Lady in Ashford Castle, Cong.[xx] As Pat put it, there were ‘more cousins than I knew about’.[xxi] A reporter from The Spectator who was present reckoned that ‘there was little rapport [and] little of the family reunion about the First Lady's encounter with her kinsfolk’. Although Mrs. Nixon spoke personally with many of them, she betrayed ‘an excessive anxiety to please’ and the atmosphere was rather awkward and ‘embarrassed’.

Photographs of Mrs. Nixon’s visit to her ancestral home in County Mayo were splashed across newspapers all over the world the following day. That same morning, she accompanied her husband when he visited the Quaker graveyard at Hodgestown near Timahoe where some of his Milhouse ancestors were buried.[xxii]

The Nixons visit to Ireland was not quite the home-coming triumph the White House had hoped for. It was quickly apparent that the Irish government’s main interest in their visit was to try and secure US capital for business development. The President also had to face some of his many detractors. In Limerick City, four anti-war protestors threw themselves on his car as it passed, at least one shouting ‘Murderer’, and had to be yanked off by Gardai. Eggs were also frequently hurled at the Presidential limo, while his effigy was burned by a crowd of 1,000 protestors at the US Embassy in Dublin.[xxiii]

Nixon was victorious in the 1972 election.[xxiv] Pat Nixon stayed by his side as the Watergate scandal engulfed the White House and forced him from office two years later. ‘I love my husband’, she said. ‘I believe in him, and I am proud of his accomplishments.’

In 1976, she suffered a stroke which resulted in the temporary loss of speech and use of her left side. Although she heroically managed to rehabilitate herself, she seriously weakened her condition, ultimately succumbing to cancer in 1993 aged 81.

Richard Nixon died ten months later and was buried alongside her in Yorba Linda, California.



[i] According to Ger Delaney of the South Mayo Family Research Centre, Katie was a daughter of John Naughton, a herdsman, and Elizabeth "Lilly" Tully. Lilly's parents were Basil Tully and Margaret Meeneghan. Catherine Naughton, the widow living in Pat McHugh's house in 1911, was quite possibly Katie's paternal grandmother and formerly a Conry. She lived until 1924. Her husband, Katie's grandfather, was also a John Naughton who died in 1886. So Katie's Naughtons grandparents surnames were: Naughton, Conry, Tully and Meeneghan. Therefore, Pat McHugh was Katie's 'adopted' granduncle. Katie Naughton died 6 May 1976.

[ii] According to the biography written by her daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, she was born "in a miner's shack high in the mountains of eastern Nevada." Her birthplace was, in fact, the Ryan residence, a modest townhouse on Campton Street, Ely, just west of the county courthouse. Her birth certificate states that she was delivered by Dr. Albert Franklin Adams at 3:25am. The time of her birth was later “pushed” to 11:50pm, ten minutes before St. Patrick's Day.

Pat Nixon always assumed 17th March was her birthday to such an extent that she wrote ‘17th March’ down as her date of birth on her Social Security application form when she began work at the Bullock's Wilshire department store in Los Angeles in April 1939. (She also gave the wrong year, 1913, and misspelled ‘Eli’).

Upon enrolling in college in 1931, she unofficially dropped her given name Thelma, replacing it with Pat and occasionally rendering it as Patricia. The name change, however, was not a legal action, merely one of preference.

[iii] His middle name was perhaps in honour of Patrick Sarsfield, the 17th century Irish Jacobite leader. Some online notes suggest he arrived in the USA in 1842 but these seem to have no backbone. He would have been very young at that time.

[iv] Ger Delaney of the South Mayo Family Research Centre unearthed the following about the Ryans from the US Censuses for Fairfield County, CT:

1860: Pat (28) labourer, Catherine (23), Thomas (1), Patrick (3 months) and, very interesting, with them in the same house was Patrick McCue (17). Unfortunately no relationships were recorded on the 1860 census. ‘Patrick McCue’ matches closely Patrick McHugh's age on the 1901 (58) and 1911 (70) census of Lynchsacres Patrick and Mary were 19 years married by 1911.

There's no record of Pat and Mary McHugh's marriage in south Mayo which suggests they married in America. Pat's wife could have been some relation to Katie Naughton because three Naughtons moved in to the McHugh household: Katie, her brother John J. (7 in 1911) and a Catherine Naughton (75, a widow in 1911). Katie eventually got this house which is where she entertained Mrs. Nixon.

1870: Pat Ryan (38), works in hat factory, Catherine (33), Thomas (11), John (10), Mary E (7), William (4), Catherine (3). Pat and Catherine’s son Patrick appears to have died in the interim since the 1860 census.

1880: Pat Ryan (47), worker hat factory, Catherine (45), Thomas (21), John (19), Mary E. (17), William (14), Catherine (12), Michael (8), Francis (11) and Anne (2).

1900: Patrick Ryan (66) Casemaker, Catherine (61), Mary (27), Michael (25), Francis (24), Anne (22), Joseph (19). In the next house was Julia McCue (48), Mary (29), Elizabeth (22), Margaret (19) and in the next house again was Kate McCue (48) and Marie (15).

[v] Some accounts state that he arrived in the USA in 1841 or 1842 but he would only have been a boy at this time.

[v.a] An online version of his military record stated that his age was 18 but, on 24 April 2012, Dale E. Call, Webmaster of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Website confirmed that the muster in roll gives his age as 28, not 18, that he was living in Danbury, CT, and that he was born in Hollymount, Ireland. The age of '18' was a misprint in the 1862 AG report.

[vi] 99% of Ridgefield’s residents served for the Union and most were enrolled in Companies C and G of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry, the ‘Fairfield County’ regiment. The regiment was to endure a hard time at Gettysburg with 11 Ridgefield casualties on 1st July alone - 2 killed, 5 wounded, 1 wounded and captured, and 3 captured. Patrick is presumed to be the Patrick Ryan who appears on the roster for Company C [http://seventeenthcvi.org/blog/rosters/company-c/]:

RYAN, Patrick. Occupation– laborer, married. Residence: Danbury, enlisted Aug. 11, 1862, age 18. Transferred to Company E, 14th Regiment, Veterans Reserve Corps Aug. 5,’63.

Correlating this with other research, Charles Pankenier surmised that Patrick was one of the bounty enlistees of August 1862 and that he was wounded at Gettysburg, accounting for his transfer to the Veterans Reserve Corps in August 1863. Of course, there may have been more than one "Patrick Ryan" in the regiment. It is also to be noted that another member of C-Company was a Danbury hatter called John McHugh who was also wounded at Gettysburg.

See http://seventeenthcvi.org/blog/ … Another useful source is Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion (1889) and see also Charles Pankenier, ‘Ridgefield Fights the Civil War’ - http://www.scribd.com/doc/55293124/Ridgefield-Fights-the-Civil-War-by-Charles-Pankenier

[vi.a] The Lincoln guard detail comes from James Tobin whose mother Josephine Rockwell was Pat Nixon's first cousin.

[vii] Matthew Bender was born in Illinois in 1874 and drowned circa 1908. He was survived by two children, Matthew G. Bender (born 1907) and Neva Renter (nee Bender, born 1909, posthumous?). See also http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=67110813

[viii] April 1910 U.S. Census.

[ix] William Jr. Ryan (1910–1997) and Thomas Ryan (1911–1992).

[x] Kate Halberstadt Ryan died of cancer on 18 January 1926. She was a Christian Scientist. William Ryan died in May 1930.

[xi] Pat Nixon was an extra in 1935's ‘Becky Sharp’ starring Miriam Hopkins, as well as ‘The Great Ziegfeld’ with William Powell.

[xii] Six of the many letters they sent each other were unveiled on 16th March 2012 at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, as part of an exhibit celebrating what would have been Pat Nixon’s 100th birthday.

[xiii] She also welcomed White House visits from activists who had not previously been extended such invitations, including groups representing the blind, deaf, and otherwise handicapped. In 1973, she publicly endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment and a woman's right to choose abortion.

[xiv] Pat’s daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower would later describe Pat’s “discomfort” when she discovered that a search for her cousins was in progress. By 1st October, her Mayo roots were front page news on the Connaught Telegraph. John D Moore was the US Ambassador at this time.

[xv] The blustery winds that had screeched through Ballinrobe’s small streets a few hours earlier had largely disappeared by now. Instead, the excited crowd could hear the sound of a helicopter cutting through the grey South Mayo skies as it headed towards them on that Sunday morning in October 1970. The chopper landed on the Fair Green and John Colleran, chairman of the Ballinrobe Development Committee, advanced forward with nine-year-old Paula Cummins from St. Joseph’s Convent School by his side. (Or was it 10-year-old Nora McWalter as the Irish Independent claimed?). The small girl carried a bouquet of flowers. The helicopter door opened and out stepped Mrs. Nixon, wife of the 37th President of the United States of America. NBC television cameras captured her stepping out of the helicopter at Ballinrobe to receive the bouquet.

The Patrician Brothers Boys Brass Band from Galway performed both the Irish and the US national anthems for her in Ballinrobe, and the Redmond School of Dancing also gave an exhibition.

See: See NBC News - 5112470734_s01 - MRS NIXON VISITS RELATIVES IN IRELAND - http://www.nbcuniversalarchives.com/nbcuni/clip/5112470734_s01.do

[xvi] After meeting Ballinrobe’s dignitaries, Mrs. Nixon went to an ivy-covered cottage near Ballygarris Cross to meet the first of her cousins, the spry 70-year-old Katie Naughton, her nearest relative. Kate was Mrs. Nixon’s second cousin. As a child she had been adopted by Mrs. Nixon’s great-uncle Pat McHugh – Pat was a brother of Mrs Nixon’s grandmother, Catherine Ryan (nee McHugh). She had a photo of Pat in her cottage Katie, who famously went everywhere by bicycle into her 70s, laid a new lino floor down in her front hall in honour of America’s First Lady. As well as Katie, there was her brother John, his wife Bridie and sister-in-law Nora Burke and a shy, 10-year-old Nora McWalter.

[xvii] From Mrs. Naughton’s, she went on to meet some more cousins, Martin and Annie Walsh, where somebody popped a cork on a champagne bottle. She also met Joe Fahey of Robeen and two sisters, Mrs. P. Cusack of Lough mask and Mrs J. McTigue of New Street, Ballinrobe.

[xviii] Irish America, Volume 10, p. 39

[xix] ‘I love Ireland’, she said, as she regarded the house, ‘but I have no intention of coming to retire here. We have a little place picked already for our retirement in California’. Ger Delaney of the South Mayo Family Research Centre states that this homestead, albeit a cowshed by 1970, in Kilvindoney townland was held in 1856 by a Catherine Ryan (assumed to be a widow at the time) whose maiden name is unknown. Catherine Ryan died a widow in 1870 aged 80. The homestead then fell to her son James (who married a Bridget Moloney) and had a family who were among the 'relatives' who met Mrs. Nixon. James Ryan was recorded as 60 in 1901 and 73 in 1911 so he was born circa 1838 and would therefore be a younger brother of Mrs. Nixons grandfather Patrick Sarsfield Ryan.

[xx] The Nixons arrived in Ireland on the tail end of a European tour. On Saturday October 3rd, they lunched with the Queen in London and then took Air Force One to Shannon airport where they were met by Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Dr Patrick Hillary, Minister of External Affairs. For the next two nights, they stayed with John Mulcahy, a wealthy Irish American industrialist, at Kilfrush House, near Knocklong / Hospital, Co. Limerick. Henry Kissinger joined them for dinner on the first night.

Nixon had previously visited Ireland as a private citizen in 1966. The following day, Nixon, Kissinger and a number of their top military advisors were engaged in a lengthy meeting about Vietnam peace talks taking place in Paris at that time.

[xxi] These people had been identified as her relatives by the American Embassy in Dublin and by Mr Ed Sullivan. As The Spectator acknowledged, there was some embarrassment about this what with the Ryan family being ‘legion in Mayo’. As well as Ryans and McHughs, there were Cunninghams, Connollys, Walshes, Faheys, Naughtons, a Murphy and a Burke. Some of the awkwardness was because where the Ryans were all Catholic while Pat Nixon was by now a Quaker.

[xxii] They landed in a field at Timahoe and spent forty minutes paying their respects at the Milhouse’s ancestral burial ground at nearby Hodgestown. It was an emotional morning for Nixon. His eyes visibly watered when he unveiled a monument in the burial ground acknowledging his connection to the Milhouses buried within. With the Ulster troubles in full flow, he used his speech to highlight the positive effects of religious tolerance towards Quakers. Pat heartily approved; she had hosted non-denominational Christian services in the East Room of the White House until concerns were voiced about the separation of church and state, and the Sunday meetings ended.

[xxiii] In 1971, President Richard Nixon’s administration commissioned Irish sculptor Rick Lewis to make three life size “Peace Swans” – the first was donated to the American people (and is on display in the Metropolitan Museum in New York), the second was given to Chairman Mao and the third to Pope Paul. Mrs. Nixon also sponsored an exhibition of 68 contemporary Irish paintings which went on show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington at the end of October 1970.

[xxiv] Senator Thomas Eagleton, who was the Democratic candidate for Vice-President in the 1972 election was supposed to also have Mayo connections. George McGovern was the Democratic candidate for President.

For more see:



Pat Nixon: the untold story, by Julie Nixon Eisenhower.

With thanks to Fiona Fitzsimon (Eneclann), Ger Delaney (South Mayo Family Research Centre), Lori Drew (White Pine County Tourism & Recreation Board), Dale E. Call (webmaster of the 17th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Website), James Tobin (whose mother Josephine Rockwell was Pat Nixon's first cousin), Harmony Baker, Sandy Quinn (Richard Nixon Foundation) and Charles Pankenier.