Archiver > IRL-TIPPERARY > 2004-06 > 1086625368

Subject: Ballyporeen/Reagan
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2004 12:22:48 EDT

Irish Town Marks Ronald Reagan's Death

42 minutes ago

BALLYPOREEN, Ireland - June 3, 1984. It was the day that Ronald Reagan (news
- web sites) rediscovered his Irish roots and overcame his reluctance to
hold babies.

The people of Ballyporeen fondly remember the visit of the former president
who came to see documents that proved his great-grandfather, Michael Regan, had
been born in the small hamlet in County Tipperary.

"He was here for four hours, drinking beer and chatting," Mary O'Farrell, who
with her husband John runs O'Farrell's bar in the main street, recalled
Monday. They had renamed the establishment the Ronald Reagan Bar after the favorite
son was elected in 1980.

"He was very easy to talk to and he went way past his schedule and his staff
were shouting, 'It's time to go, Mr. President,'" O'Farrell said.

The O'Farrells presented their four-week-old baby daughter, Catherine Nancy
named for the president's wife but were careful not to ask the president to
hold her, since his staff had advised he would not.

"Mrs. Reagan held the baby while he signed the visitor's book, but then she
needed to sign and I said, 'Mr. President, why don't you hold the baby?'" Mrs.
O'Farrell recalled. "And he did. And he was charming."

The O'Farrells were saddened to hear of Reagan's death of pneumonia on
Saturday but they had received a personal note of warning.

"He wrote to us four times after coming here, the last time about 10 years
ago when he said he was suffering from Alzheimer's," said Mrs. O'Farrell. "I
think it must have been very hard for Mrs. Reagan."

O'Farrell's bar is now for sale, but the new owners are likely to retain the
Reagan connection, which is also highlighted at the Ronald Reagan Center, home
of Ballyporeen's tourist office.

Former chairman of Tipperary South County Council, Con Donovan, was the first
person to formally welcome Reagan when his helicopter landed in a local
sports field.

"I remember him on the podium throwing out his arm and saying, 'There is no
place in the universe I would rather be than here in Ballyporeen,'" Donovan

Addressing the crowds who crammed into Ballyporeen, Reagan tried a bit of
Gaelic, thanking "the muintir na hEireann" (people of Ireland) for welcoming him
to his ancestral home.

"I know at last whence I came," he declared. "And this has given my soul a
new contentment. And it is a joyous feeling. It is like coming home after a long

"I can't think of a place on the planet I would rather claim as my roots more
than Ballyporeen."

Reagan said his great-grandfather who left Ireland in the 1860s, a time of
great poverty had gone "seeking to better himself and his family."

For a long time, Reagan had known little about his ancestry because his own
father had been orphaned in childhood, he said.

"From what I'm told, we were a poor family. But my ancestors took with them a
treasure, an indomitable spirit that was cultivated in the rich soil of this
county," Reagan added.

The president joked that he had learned from genealogists that all Regans and
Reagans belonged to the same clan, and "that in it those who said 'Regan' and
spelled it that way were the professional people and the educators, and only
the common laborers called it 'Reagan.'

"So, meet a common laborer," he said, to laughter.

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