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Wexford People Who Made History

County Wexford is situated in the south east of the island of Ireland and this is just a small selection of the famous people who were born in County Wexford  or who had roots in County Wexford.  They include a US President, a Beatle, military heroes and famous inventors.

Commodore John Barry

In the space of 58 years, this son of a poor Irish farmer rose from humble cabin boy to senior commander of the entire United States fleet. Intrepid In battle, he was humane to his men as well as adversaries and prisoners. Barry’s war contributions are unparalleled: he was the first to capture a British war vessel on the high seas; he captured two British ships after being severely wounded in a ferocious sea battle; he quelled three mutinies; he fought on land at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton; he captured over 20 ships including an armed British schooner in the lower Delaware; he authored a Signal Book which established a set of signals used for effective communication between ships; and he fought the last naval battle of the American Revolution aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783.

John Barry portrait by Gilbert Stuart.

President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy’s New Ross Speech – June 27 1963

I am glad to be here. It took 115 years to make this trip, and 6,000 miles, and three generations. But I am proud to be here and I appreciate the warm welcome you have given to all of us.

When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance.

If he hadn’t left, I would be working over at the Albatross Company, or perhaps for John V. Kelly. In any case, we are happy to be back here.

About 50 years ago, an Irishman from New Ross traveled down to Washington with his family, and in order to tell his neighbors how well he was doing, he had his picture taken in front of the White House and said, “This is our summer home. Come and see us.” Well, it is our home also in the winter, and I hope you will come and see us.

John F Kennedy.

George Harrison - Beatles Guitarist

The youngest of three boys, George’s parents were Louise and Harold Harrison, Roman Catholics with Irish roots. Louise’s parents were from Ferns in County Wexford. Her father John French, born in 1870,  left Wexford and emmigrated to Liverpool to become a policeman. He lost his job when the entire police force in Liverpool were sacked during a union dispute known as the  Liverpool Lockout. He then found a job as a street lamplighter. He married Louise Woolham, a native of Liverpool, and had seven children,  one of which was George’s mother, Louise. Louise French married Harold Harrison, a bus driver in 1930.

When the Beatles toured Ireland in 1963, George travelled to Wexford to visit his cousins. The Ffrench family still live in County Wexford. The original house that George’s grandfather had left is still intact.

Another Beatle connection with County Wexford was George Harrison’s dentist, John Riley, who left England and settled in County Wexford in 1980 but died tragically in a car accident in 1986.  John was a regular patron of the Cedar Lodge Hotel in Carrigbyrne.

George Harrison 1974.

Guglielmo Marconi

Marconi was born near Bologna in Italy, the second son of Giuseppe Marconi an Italian landowner and his Irish wife, Annie Jameson, from Enniscorthy in County Wexford, granddaughter of the founder of the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.  In 1905, Marconi married the Hon. Beatrice O’Brian who was a direct descendant of the last High King of Ireland Brian Boru.

Guglielmo Marconi