The Day I Met Johnny Cash!

By Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore

Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore recalls the day he met Johnny and June Cash.

One day when I was working in Montego Bay, I got a call from the bishop requesting that I go out and bless the foundation of a new hotel, the Ritz Carlton. He was invited to perform the ceremony but due to other engagements couldn’t make it. Reluctantly, I set off not realizing that it was a formal occasion attended by all the great and the good of Jamaican life. Arriving at the area in which the ceremony was to take place, I was ushered into a prominent position carrying my bottle of holy water in a plastic bottle and stole. The organizer of the project, John Rollins, welcomed the Prime Minister, members of parliament, local politicians, businessmen and women and other prominent names that included Johnny Cash and his wife June. They lived nearby and were supportive of projects in Montego Bay such as the SAS village that cared for homeless children.

After the formalities were completed we were invited to a formal lunch. Again, there were speeches of support for the project and for the man, John Rollins, who was the main investor.

The area where the hotel was going to be built was an old plantation called Rose Hall. Rose Hall had an infamous resident during slave times by the name of Annie Palmer. Locals in the area claimed that she appears now and then. So, she is appropriately named The White Witch of Rose Hall. The golf course adjacent to the hotel is called The White Witch.

After the speeches Johnny Cash was asked to sing a song that he had written many years earlier titled-Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall. He got up, took his guitar and with June belted out the song to a rousing reception. Sitting next to him and June at lunch they were great talkers. He talked about his trips to Ireland and particularly the one to Mullingar that he had to cancel because of the death of Pope John XXIII.

Returning to Ireland I happened to meet a few people at a golf outing who worked at Navan Carpets. In the course of conversations I asked if they had any big projects coming up. They replied that they were making the carpets for the Ritz Carlton in Montego Bay. Small world!

Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore now lives and works in Ireland.

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