It was the first time that I recall that the outside world entered my little existence.
I was a few months from my sixth birthday and I was busying myself with a toy truck on the living room floor.
Moreover, I was completely oblivious to what the adults where talking about.
In my memory the conviviality of the evening was rent twice by the man in the small black and white TV set in the corner.
The programme on the TV – whatever it was – was interrupted by a newsflash.
Back then, they were reserved for events of genuine importance.
Today in the 24/7 age, a newsflash can mean that the reserve centre half at Bolton has signed a contract extension.
In the Britain of two TV channels, a newsflash meant something.
The first one told the adult in the room that President Kennedy and been shot in the head.
Then there was silence. Then one of the men, it might have been my grandfather, opined that this was bad, the head, very bad.
The second newsflash didn’t seem to be that long after and it told us that President Kennedy was dead.
It was the first time that I saw a man cry.
I was bemused in the way that a five year old often is about the ways of adults.
Mr Maguire, my grandmother’s brother in law, quietly wept.
My granny started to pray for the soul of the president departed.
I knew about prayers, they were important.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was loved in the land of his forefathers, but he was also a hero within the Irish diaspora in Scotland.
In a time of blatant social exclusion by a hostile host community it was somehow warming to know that elsewhere our people were doing well, very well.
It told us that there wasn’t anything inherently amiss with us; in a different place things were better for Kellys, Kennedys, Maguires, Murphys and Reillys.
Perhaps my kin clung to this thought in a belief that one day this place that didn’t really want us would also be a land of the free.
In my other grandmother’s house, in Westport County Mayo, there was a plate on the wall in the front room.
It was a profile depiction of Jack Kennedy.
There he was in porcelain strikingly handsome and forever young.
At the other side of the fireplace another plate had the image of Padraig Pearse.
JFK had, in a way, entered the pantheon of martyrs for old Ireland.
He was, as they say here, ‘one of our own’ and the man who died in Dealey Plaza 50 years ago today certainly felt that too.
There is no doubt about the cause of death.
A rifle bullet hitting a human skull is usually something that produces a corpse.
What continues to baffle and divide half a century later is who fired the fatal shot and whether or not there was a supporting act.
By the time I had watched Oliver Stone’s magisterial work with Kevin Costner playing New Orleans DA Jim Garrison, I had filed the Warren Commission in the same part of my brain as the Widgery Report.
I have no problem believing that governments murder and cover it up.
Jack Kennedy had lots of powerful enemies inside the Beltway and among the CIA’s Cuban allies furious at the Bay of Pigs debacle.
In the wake of Stone’s brilliant piece of cinematography I was convinced that something was rotten in the state of Washington and I went and read the books upon which the script of JFK was based.
That was 20 years ago and I thought that something was ready to give in this story.
I am not a conspiracy theorist.
Conspiracies happen all the time, but to believe what a conspiracy theorist believes you must accept two basic truths:
(1) Governments are competent
(2) They can keep a secret.
I believe neither of those statements, and so I can’t take part in the longest running game of Cluedo on the internet.
Oswald was a trained US Marine Corps rifleman with a functioning weapon.
Moreover, he had already tried to kill someone the week before.
We today find it troubling that someone as important as President Kennedy would be taken from us by someone as inconsequential as Oswald.
There is a cognitive dissonance that creates the JKF conspiracy industry.
I read and re-read Jim Marrs’ book “Crossfire” and Jim garrison’s memoir “On the trail of the Assassins”.
The conspiracies they present would have involved hundreds, perhaps, thousands of people at the upper reaches of the US intelligence community.
So many links in the chain and no death bed confession, no slip up by a key player after fifty years.
As my American cousins would style it, I aint buying.
If someone has any compelling evidence that Oswald did not shoot John Kennedy then I have yet to see it.
The Zapruder film only proves what the man in the telly told my kin a few minutes after it had happened; that President Kennedy was shot in the head and that he died.
Everything else is speculation.
Much fluff has been written about ‘Camelot’ and what the second Kennedy administration would deliver.
Of course, we cannot know as he did not live to take the oath of office a second time.
There is a comfort in believing about vast omnipotent conspiracies.
It suggests that there is order in the world and that someone, somewhere, is in charge of what happens.
That is why people believe in an all seeing, all knowing god.
Personally, I don’t believe that I live in a celestial North Korea with Angelic Stasi appointed to guard over each and every one of us.
Neither do I believe that a conspiracy at the highest levels of the US government to murder their commander in chief happened and that it remained undiscovered for 50 years.
Moreover, I don’t think they would use a public cavalcade to carry out the hit.
The terrifying reality is that chance and timing propel our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Lee Harvey Oswald murdered John Fitzgerald Kennedy with a 6.5mm Mannlicher Carcano Model 91/38 carbine.
If any of you demur then no doubt you will have evidence that stands up in a court of law because I don’t.
Anyone who goes to bed at night convinced that Jack Kennedy was murdered by some labyrinthine conspiracy that still remains largely undetected is in some way still playing with their toy truck and that isn’t such a bad place to be.
However, one day the real world has to intervene.
Newsflash: dysfunctional loners with high powered firearms often kill people in the USA.