Secret Papers released last week as part of the State Archives reveal that the late President John F Kennedy’s wife Jackie made a personal call from the White House to the Irish embassy in Washington to ask if the Irish Defence Forces’ cadets could play a role in her husbands state funeral procession. The President had earlier been assassinated in Dallas.
The man tasked with getting the Cadetts to the Arlington Cemetery in the U.S. at short notice was Boyle native Colonel Cyril Mattimoe who was the then Cadet Master Lieutenant at the Curragh Camp in Kildare.
When Colonel Mattimoe got a call to his home at 9.30pm on Saturday 23rd November, little did he know what lay ahead.
On the line was The Chief of Staff General McEoin who enquired were the cadets on leave. Colonel Mattimoe responded that they were on day pass to which the Chief said ” You have a busy few days ahead of you. Your cadets are providing a guard of honour at the funeral of President Kennedy. You fly out at 3.30pm tomorrow in the plane with President de Valera”.
The request had come from the late President’s wife Jacqueline Kennedy who said her husband had been so moved when he saw the 36th class of army cadets perform their silent drive at the grave of the 1916 Rising leaders at Arbour Hill during his visit to Ireland in June 1963.
The young soldiers performed impeccably at the graveside and were commended by many on the way they conducted themselves. The cadets returned to Ireland as conquering heroes. The Cadet Master Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Mattimoe had the PR savvy to send them home on leave on their first weekend back in Ireland, recommending that they travel home in their uniforms.
Colonel Mattimoe who died on 23rd March 2003, a few days shy of his 90th birthday, was a regular visitor to his native Boyle. In his retirement years, he holidayed in his small caravan at the Woodenbridge.