Coming from a country where millions boast of Irish roots to one where few families are without American cousins, then-President of the US, Ronald Reagan, and wife Nancy paid a visit to Ireland in 1984 to celebrate the historic ties between Ireland the United States. They were guests of honor of local dignitaries and shown all the marvelous sites including Dublin, Ireland's capital city, and the historic city of Galway. Although they had visited Ireland briefly on an earlier occasion, it was not until 1984 that the President was able to visit the village of Ballyporeen, Co. Tipperary, the homeland of his ancestors.
Back in the early 1800s, a young man from the Ballyporeen area, Thomas Regan, married Margaret Murphy; between 1816 and 1829, they produced six children. The youngest, called Michael, was baptised in the Church of the Assumption, Ballyporeen, in 1829, and in the late 1840s - at the height of the potato famine - he emigrated to England. There, his name was changed to Reagan and he married a Tipperary girl, Catherine Mulcahy, and in 1858 moved to America with his family.
The Reagan family has many connections to the State of Illinois. Michael and Catherine's second son, John, married Jenny Cusack (?Cusick) and they had three children including John Edward, their youngest son, who settled in Illinois and became a shoe-salesman, marrying Nellie Wilson.
Ronald, the youngest son of John Edward and Nellie, was born in Tampico, Illinois in 1911. He became a popular screen star, served in WWII as an officer in the Army Air Force, was the Governor of California - eventually, the President of the United States. His wife was the former Nancy Davis.
On Sunday, June 3, 1984, the President and the first lady paid their first visit to Ballyporeen, where the president was seen to be visibly moved as he stepped from the helicopter as he had his first look at the town in which his great-grandfather was born. He walked up to the Parochial House, where Father John Murphy showed him the register in which the baptism of his great-grandfather, Michael, in 1829, was recorded. The curate, Rev. Eanna Condon, took the President and Mrs. Reagan through the village to the church where they assisted at a short and beautiful ceremony. As they emerged from the church, they were enthusiastically greeted by the townspeople who pressed forward to shake their hands. The sun shone and the village street took on a festive air.
There was an extra-special moment for Mrs. Reagan during the trip when she visited the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin which was celebrating its bicentenary. Her late step-father, Dr. Loyal Davis, had been granted an Honorary Fellowship by the college in 1982, and Mrs. Reagan unveiled a portrait of Dr. Davis during her visit.