Ford – The Cork Connection

A bit of Cork history… so that you may be aware!

When Henry Ford’s Irish links are discussed, most people know of his ancestry being traced to Ballinascarthy where today a stainless steel replica of a 1909 T stands by the roadside.

What many people do not know, is that Henry Ford named his Dearborn mansion “Fairlane” after the name of the street in Cork City where his mother’s family came from, and also, the fact that in 1955, the Ford Motor Company also used the name Fairlane for a new model of Ford car and with that name Fairline is enshrined in automobile history.

Of course the most important piece of history for us in Ireland is the fact it was Cork’s Marina was the choice made by Henry Ford when he established the first Ford manufacturing facility outside the US in 1917.  

Although this plant ceased production in 1984, it had an enormous impact on the life of Cork City and County both economically and socially. To many it was thought that the setting up of an entirely separate tractor company which was named Henry Ford and Son Limited was very much a personal decision given the family roots in West Cork.

But there was also the crucial factor which was the first world war. Cork had the advantage of its wonderful harbour and that enabled the ease of transportation of the finished product. Whatever the reasons behind the decision, the history books have shown the enormous contribution that Henry Ford made to automobile transport in the earlier part of the 20th century in Ireland and elsewhere.

It was 1907 when the first Ford motor cars appeared at the Irish motor show in Dublin. By then Ford was the biggest car manufacturer in America. At that event, the Ford exhibit was the Model N, the first low priced four cylinder car to be produced by the company and was to be the direct ancestor of Ford’s most successful car, The Model T.

The T began production in 1908 and continued until May 1927 when the last of the fifteen million Ts rolled off the assembly line. Interestingly, production of the T at Cork continued on until 31st December 1927. The first Irish Ford agent who started with a six car contract and the arrival of the new Model T in 1909 was an immediate success with sales doubling year on year until 1913 when they reached a level of 600 Fords sold in Ireland.

During the summer of 1912, Henry Ford spent two months visiting Ireland and Britain including a visit to his father’s homestead at Ballinascarthy, County Cork. On his return to America he set about establishing a Ford motor plant in Cork. By the end of 1913, Ford was producing 50% of all cars in US and by 1918 half of all the cars in the world were Model T Fords.

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