In an attempt to re-connect with his family’s strong Irish roots, William Ford Jr., current chairman of Ford Motor Company and founder Henry Ford’s great-grandson, visited the town where his family ancestry lies.
Heading straight to Ballinascarthy where his great-great-grandfather, William Ford, was born, William Ford, Jr. addressed the eager crowd in front of him and said “he would not rule out the possibility of reopening the plant Ford closed in Cork in July 1984,” according to the Irish Examiner.
Ford was standing next to a stainless steel replica of the Model-T car as he addressed his audience. The car was built in Ballinascarthy in 2000, to honor the line of cars that Ford made history with in 1908.
Proud of his Irish roots, Ford cites that it was the Irish spirit of resilience that got them through a rough financial time a coupleo f years ago, and that that same courage would get Ireland through their own debt woes.
The whole experience to be back where his great-grandfather once stood, at an event that included traditional Irish dance and music, was “a living memory for me,” Ford expressed. "When William Ford left here in 1847 nobody had any idea that his son Henry would change the world. I couldn’t be more proud of him."
The visit also included a private lunch with the family’s closest living relative in Ballinascarthy, Hazel Buttimer, who said that "It’s a great honour that the Ford family continue to come back to their roots."
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The Ford family’s roots to Ireland - especially Co. Cork - date back to 1926, when Henry Ford’s father, William Ford, was born in Ballinascarthy. The Ford family was forced to uproot to America because of the famine, and in 1848, the family finally landed in Dearborn, Michigan. It was there that William met and fell it love with Mary Litogot, his employer’s daughter; coincidentally, his employer, Patrick Ahern, was a man from Cork himself. Henry Ford was then born In Dearborn in 1863, the first son to Mary and William.
At age 16, Henry left the farm that he grew up on for the big city and got into the car business, based in Michigan. In 1912, Henry made a trip back to Ireland to re-connect with his Irish roots with his wife, Clara Bryant Ford. In 1917, Henry Ford established Henry Ford & Sons Ltd. at 36 South Mall in Co. Cork, which would later become a division of the Ford Motor company.
The company, which was the first Ford office outside of North America, quickly took off. By 1930, over 11% of Cork's inhabitants worked for Ford, and by 1932, the Ford office became an official assembly plant. By 1938, Ford Ireland had produced 73,000 cars, trucks, and tractors.
In 1967, for Ford Ireland’s 50th anniversary, a £2 million renovation was put in order to modernize the plant. Because of this massive program, Ford Ireland became the largest and most modern factory in all of Ireland. In that same year, Ford of Europe merged with Henry Ford & Sons Ltd., and by 1977, the plant had grown to over 450,000 square feet. Sadly, the plant closed in July 1984, after facing extreme financial hardships.