Humble Stewartstown background of US President JFK’s driver Bill Greer

Bill Greer with a picture of US President John F Kennedy
Bill Greer with a picture of US President John F Kennedy

The son of a humble farm worker, William Robert Greer was born on September 22, 1909 in the townland of Ballyveeney near Stewartstown, Co Tyrone.

Greer’s father Richard met his mother Mary (nee Arbothnot) while they both worked on the estate of elderly widow Matilda Ferguson. The couple married in 1902.

William and his three older sisters were baptised at Ballyclog Presbyterian Church and began their education at Ballymaguire Primary School.

At 17 years of age, Greer joined the local Orange lodge in keeping with family tradition.

Drumbonaway LOL 214 records show he was initiated into the Order on July 7, 1927 and received his ‘Arch Purple’ in November the same year.

He was elected as a committee member shortly afterwards but decided to emigrate to north America two years later. Greer initially sailed from Belfast to Quebec on Cunard ship Andania as a third-class passenger on May 25, 1929.

The ship’s manifest lists his address as simply Drumbonaway, Stewartstown, Co Tyrone.

A further record exists of him crossing into the US at Vanceboro, Maine not long after that date.

Greer was troubled by a stomach ulcer which caused him increased discomfort after the Kennedy assassination – eventually forcing his retirement from the Secret Service in 1966.

A notice in Lisburn’s Ulster Star newspaper at the time announced his retirement, naming Greer’s sister Ella Torrens as living in Dunmurry and cousins who lived in Lisburn.

He had one son, named after his own father Richard, who was born in the US.

Greer died of stomach cancer in 1985 and is buried in North Carolina.