Che in Kilkee?

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2008), Letters, Letters, Volume 16

Sir,

—As a leading Kilkee historian, I was surprised and disappointed to see the old canard of Jim Fitzpatrick having met with Che Guevara at the Marine Hotel, Kilkee, Co. Clare, ‘in the summer of 1962’ (HI 16.4, July/August 2008) publicised yet again. As the entire world knows, Che made only one brief visit to Kilkee, on Saturday 13 March 1965. The facts were briefly reported by Arthur Quinlan of Limerick—the only Irish journalist to have interviewed the then Cuban minister for industry at Shannon Airport on the night of Friday 12 March 1965—in the Limerick Leader of 15 March 1965, under the heading ‘He wanted to see Limerick night life’.
Ernesto Guevara de la Sera—the tag ‘Che’, which is a verbal mannerism common amongst Argentines, came many years after his birth at Rosario in 1928. Rosario was and remains a river port serving Argentina’s northern cattle ranches and plantations. Guevara arrived on the night of Friday 12 March 1965 on board a Cuban Britannia aircraft that had developed mechanical problems. All 72 passengers were travelling home to Havana from Prague in then Czechoslovakia (cf. Des Ryan’s ‘From Limerick to Bolivia: Ernesto Che Guevara’, Limerick Christmas Gazette, 11 December 1997, where the visit is dealt with in some detail). Jim Fitzpatrick has promulgated his fictional meeting with Che on at least two previous occasions: (1) the Irish Times magazine, 17 March 2001, and (2) the Clare Champion, 12 November 2004. One wonders whether Che was made aware that Havana port was developed by a Carrigaholt ‘wild goose’ named Blake who was assistant to Alexander O’Reilly, the ‘arrogant and imperious’ governor of Havana, another ‘wild goose’.

—Yours etc.,
THOMAS J. BYRNE
Artane
Dublin 5

Mr Byrne cites as evidence that Che Guevara visited Kilkee on Saturday 13 March 1965, and not ‘the summer of 1962’ as claimed by Jim Fitzpatrick, journalist Arthur Quinlan’s report in the Limerick Leader of 15 March 1965 (reproduced in full above)—but there is no mention of Kilkee in that report.

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