Ferm jpg

A Fermanagh chapter in the Kennedy tale

Fr. Ultan McGoohan and Fr. Sean McManus on their “pilgrimage” to the ancestral home of Rosanna Cox-Fitzgerald in Toneymore West, County Fermanagh.


By Fr. Sean McManus

I’m lately even more proud of my native Fermanagh since it has been established that the great -grandmother of President Kennedy, Rosanna Cox-Fitzgerald (c.1835-1979) was born in Fermanagh and in the next parish to my own parish of Kinawley.

Indeed, Rosanna’s father was from the parish of Kinawley. Rosanna, who would be the grandmother of rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, apparently immigrated to America in her late teens or early twenties.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The historic parish of Kinawley has essentially been in existence since the Sixth Century. It is now divided by the damn border, its other part being in County Cavan.

The neighboring parish to Kinawley is the parish of Knockninney, and it is in that parish that Rosanna Cox was born.

On Saturday, August 4, I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination in St. Naile’s Church, Kinawley (the actual date of my ordination was September 1, 1968).

The Curate of Knockninney, Fr. Ultan McGoohan, was one of the six priests who concelebrated Mass with me, and a few days later he took me on a “pilgrimage” to the ancestral home of Rosanna.

Fr. McGoohan, who has a degree in history, has recently done groundbreaking work in bringing to light this neglected lineage of the Kennedy family.

We have heard a lot about “The Boys of Wexford,” and now it is due time to hear about “The Girls of Fermanagh.”

I am sure the younger generations of the Kennedys will want to pay due homage to the neglected distaff side (female side) of family.

Such neglect, of course, was common in older days. But now, I am hoping the younger Kennedys will see it as a matter of historical justice, as well as due and equal respect to Rosanna Cox-Fitzgerald, to right the family record of this extraordinary Irish-American family.

Fr.McGoohan, in his key article, "The Fermanagh roots of John F. Kennedy” (February 28, 2018) explains how the Fermanagh connection had been lost for so long.

''In summary,” he wrote, “I am proposing that there has been a mistake. Rosanna Cox was not a Cavan woman, but a Fermanagh woman. We know her father was Philip Cox and there is a baptism registered to Philip Cox and Mary McGauran/McGovern in Kinawley parish.

“We know she gave her home address as Tonymore Tomregan, Co. Cavan. Tonymore is in the civil parish of Tomregan, the home address given at the Kennedy Center in the United States and in Dunganstown, as the birthplace of Rosanna.

As we now know, Tomregan was a civil parish, but Tonymore is in the Catholic ecclesiastical parish of Knockninny.

“At the time Tomregan was probably still being used as a postal address by the residents of Tonymore. We can claim her as a Fermanagh woman, with Kinawley and Knockninny roots and to be even more parochial, we might call her a Teemore woman!”

Tourism Ireland Banner Ad