Ché Guevara in Kilkee

Courtesy Jim Fitzpatrick

In the early years of transatlantic aviation aeroplanes did not have the capability to fly from the USA to Europe. Instead flights left the North American continent at Gander in Newfoundland having re-fuelled there. On the European side of the ocean Shannon Airport is as far as the planes could get to before re-fuelling for their onward journey. Without modern aviation instruments some planes which landed at Shannon were fog-bound and as there were few hotels in either Ennis or Limerick and plenty in Kilkee the passengers of the fog-bound plane were bussed to Kilkee to stay overnight.

Arriving at Kilkee

Ché’s Daughter, Aleida . Picture courtesy Kilkee Historical Society.

In 1962 a plane from Moscow to Cuba stopped for re-fuelling and among the passengers bussed to Kilkee was one Ernesto (Ché) Guevara. He and his fellow travellers stayed in the Strand Hotel but in their wandering around the popular seaside resort they went to the bar in the Royal Marine Hotel. Behind the counter of the bar was an art student, Jim Fitzpatrick, who recognised Guevara from photographs. As an art student his first reaction was to draw his important visitor. Today the iconic painting of Ché adorns the walls of bedrooms, tee shirts, and wherever left wing groups gather. An annual Cuban festival takes place in Kilkee every September in honour of Ché visit. At one such festival Aleida Guevara,Ché’s daughter, gave a public talk on what it is like to be the child of a very famous father. Aleida is a paediatrician in Havana’s Children’s Hospital.

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