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Ford Factory Established by Henry Ford in Cork on April 17, 1917

Cork, April 12, 2017 – Monday, April 17, this year marks exactly 100 years since Henry Ford established Henry Ford & Son Limited on the Marina in Cork, his ancestral home city.

It also will kick off a week-long series of activity that will see great-grandson of Henry Ford and Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, William Clay Ford, Jr., arrive in Cork to mark the centenary and participate in a number of commemorative events, including a visit back to the ancestral home of the Ford family.

“I am excited and honored to be coming home to Cork to celebrate 100 years of Ford in Ireland,” Ford said.  “Ford has deep roots in Cork, not only through my family’s historical connection, but also through the impact that the Ford factory has had as an engine for prosperity for the area over many decades.”

Henry Ford’s father, William Ford, with his siblings and parents, emigrated from Ballinascarthy, Co. Cork, to the US in 1847 during the Famine and Henry was subsequently born in Michigan in 1863. Always proud of his Cork roots, he came back to the city and opened the first purpose-built Ford factory outside of North America here in April 1917.

During the week of April 17, William Clay Ford, Jr. will attend a commemorative event at Ballinascarthy and will unveil a plaque marking the centenary as well as attending a Gala Event at Cork City Hall.  Other planned activity will include an event recognising the valuable contribution of Henry Ford & Son Ltd. pensioners at a Civic Reception hosted by the Cork City Lord Mayor Cllr. Des Cahill. There will also be an event at University College Cork announcing a partnership between Ford and the University.

Commenting on the centenary, Ciarán McMahon, Chairman and Managing Director of Ford Ireland, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Mr. Ford to Cork for the centenary celebrations.  What a great opportunity to mark the wonderful legacy and contribution to Cork and indeed, Ireland, that Ford has made in that 100 years.”

 “The factory is sadly no more, but Ford remains one of the best-selling brands in both the car and van market in Ireland,” he added. “Several of our models including the Fiesta, Focus and Transit are segment leaders while the all new Mustang is in a class of its own.”

 “The company is also looking to the future as we plan for the next century of business in Ireland,” said the Ford Ireland chief. “Ford is the company with the largest test fleet of autonomous driving vehicles in the world, and in 2017 we will start testing autonomous vehicles across Europe.  The company is moving from traditional vehicle manufacture to being a smart mobility solutions provider as we tackle the global mobility challenges of the 21st century.”          


Editor’s Note:

Ford Family Roots in Cork

The Ford Motor Company was set up in Michigan by Henry Ford in 1903. True to his roots, just 14 years later Henry opened the first purpose-built Ford factory to be located outside of North America at the Marina in Cork.

Henry’s father, William Ford, emigrated from Ballinascarthy in Co. Cork (50km from Cork City) with his parents and siblings in 1847 during the Famine; Henry was born in Michigan in 1863.  Growing up on the family farm, Henry developed a strong interest in mechanics. At first, he concentrated his efforts on making work easier for farmers but he soon came to realise the potential of the motor car as a force for good for the development of societies across the globe.  Although he cannot be credited with inventing the motor car, Henry Ford was the man who brought motoring to the masses: the affordable yet rugged vehicles he was producing through his newly invented production-line manufacturing technique – which has since been copied by practically every vehicle and machinery manufacturer across the globe.

‘Bringing it all back home’ – Ford factory established in Cork 1917

When it came time to expand the business to Europe, there is no doubt that Henry’s Cork roots played an important part in his decision to open a plant in Cork.  In his own words, he hoped that the new Ford plant ‘would start Ireland along the road to industry’.  The setting up of the Ford plant in Cork was the first example of foreign direct investment in Ireland, many decades before the term was even coined.

The company that he legally established was entitled Henry Ford & Son Ltd. and that continues to be the legal name of Ford in Ireland to this day – the only Ford entity in the world to include the full name of the company’s founder in its title.

When the Cork Ford plant became fully operational, Europe was just emerging from a catastrophic World War and Communist Russia was in the midst of a huge modernisation programme so tractors were the vehicles that were most urgently needed.  The Fordson tractor was the main product produced by the Cork plant, which in 1929 became the largest tractor factory in the world.  However, the factory also produced passenger models, including the iconic Model T. Indeed, the last Model T ever produced by Ford anywhere in the world rolled off the Cork factory production line in December 1928. 

In addition to the Model T, the Cork factory also produced all the other main Ford vehicles that were sold in Europe from the 30s right up to the 70s and 80s including the Model A, Model BF and Model Y; Prefect; Anglia; Escort; Cortina; and Sierra.

With Ireland’s accession to the EEC in 1973, Ireland had to comply with new rules that lifted the previous restrictions on imports of fully built motor vehicles into the country; this, combined with a depressed car market in the late 1970s and early 1980s meant that the plant became no longer viable and, regrettably, it closed its doors in 1984.

In the intervening years, Ford has continued to be a strong player on the automotive scene in Ireland and the company has the widest network of dealers in Ireland with 52 Dealerships providing direct and indirect employment to some 1,000 people across the country.  

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