The grainy footage shows John F Kennedy riding in an open sedan car, waving to cheering crowds, escorted by police motorcycles.
The scene was filmed in 1963 – the year of his killing – but there was no bullet this time. Instead, the US president finished his day with smiles and handshakes.
Previously unseen video has emerged, taken five months before his assassination, and in New Ross, a coastal town in county Wexford in south-east Ireland, where Kennedy made a pilgrimage to the family homestead of his great-grandfather.
Peggy Walsh, an amateur videographer and local resident, recorded the 27 June visit in a 20-minute colour video. The film remained in a drawer, largely forgotten, for over four decades.
Her modest documentation of Kennedy contrasts with that of another amateur filmmaker, Abraham Zapruder, who, on 22 November in 1963, recorded the politician riding in an open car past cheering crowds in Dallas, Texas, and being shot. It became arguably the most famous video of the 20th century.
Walsh, now aged 98, and her daughter Ann Larkin recently accepted the offer of another New Ross resident, Paddy Breen, to convert her film to DVD.
“It’s been in a drawer for nearly 50 years without anyone going near it,” said Larkin. “To have it now and have it looking so good is just fantastic. When you see the crowds around him, the freedom and the friendliness of it, it really was like a homecoming.”
They have donated it to the New Ross library’s Kennedy Book and Research Archive, an offshoot of the annual Kennedy summer school, which holds talks and events in the Wexford town in September.
Willie Keilthy, chair of the summer school, thanked Walsh and Larkin for preserving and donating the film. It is to be shown to the public for the first time at an outdoor screening on 2 September.
Kennedy described his visit in 1963 as an emigrant homecoming. “It took 115 years to make this trip, and 6,000 miles, and three generations,” he said in a quayside speech.
The spot is marked by a statue and an “emigrant flame”, which flickers inside a metal sculpture, dedicated to the diaspora. It was lit by a torch taken from the eternal flame by his grave in Arlington, Virginia.