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March 17, 2017

Celebrating the Cork, Ireland and Ford legacy

By Austen Smith

MotorCities National Heritage Area

For the Ford history enthusiasts out there, the annual tradition of Saint Patrick's Day means much more than dollar store shamrocks and green beer. There is an inescapable connection between Henry Ford, the Ford Motor Co., and Henry's ancestral home of County Cork, Ireland.

William Ford, Henry's father, emigrated from Cork in 1846 with his father to escape famine. William married Henry's mother, Mary Litogot, in 1861 and the Ford's eldest son, Henry, arrived shortly after in 1863. 



Henry Ford grew up in Springwells Township, MI, on the family farm. Although Henry showed great promise with mechanics early on, William expected Henry to one day take over operation of the farm. Instead, Henry moved to Detroit in 1879 to start his early career as a machinist working for companies such as the Flowers Brothers Machine Shop and the Detroit Dry Dock Company. 

According to the Ford Ireland website: "Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined that William's eldest son would grow up to establish one of the greatest business empires in the world. Henry Ford's inventions and production methods were to change the lives of millions and the effects of his genius would be felt all over the world - not least in the land of his ancestors."

Soon after Heny Ford had found success in the U.S. with the invention of the Model T in 1908, he took a trip to Ireland in 1912 and then again in 1917 when he formally established "Henry Ford and Son, LLC." From there, Ford had come full circle bringing his innovative brand of industrialism to the shores where his father and grandfather fled some 70 years earlier.

The Ford legacy in Cork has endured through many years and is receiving special tretment in 2017 which marks the 100-year anniversary of the Ford Motor Co. in Ireland. Ford-Ireland is honoring this timeless legacy with a "Ford 100" campaign, featuring a special video starring Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn and an very useful timeline you can see here

The towns people of Cork have also joined in the festivities with local dignitaries visiting Detroit to join the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday, March 12; and then being treated to an exclusive visit and tour of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant 


 The Cork delegation visiting the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant. 

Members of the Ford Piquette Plant Piquette T's provided their own Model T's to escort the Cork delegation in the Dertroit Parade which winds down Michigan Avenue through (where else?) Corktown. The Corkonians also visited the Henry Ford Estate for lunch the following day.



Edsel Bryant Ford II, center, with the delegation from Cork, Ireland visiting the Henry Ford Estate.




 Mayor of Cork with Edsel Bryant Ford II 



Special thanks to the Henry Ford Heritage Association, the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant, the Ford House and Henry Ford Estate for coordinating efforts to welcome the Cork delegation and for celebating this timeless trans-Atlantic legacy.  




Dignitaries from Cork, Ireland, preparing to mount up for the annual Detroit St. Patrick's Day Parade in a Model T.


Another dignitary from Cork getting a ride in a Model T in Sunday's parade in Detroit.

After riding in the parade, the Cork delegation received a VIP tour of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant - birthplace of the Model T.


Model T drivers in Detroit's St. Patrick's Day parade.

The St. Patrick's Day Queen riding in a Model T.

Model T's getting ready for the Detroit Parade on Sunday, March 12. 



 The St. Patrick's Day Queen and her court with Paws the Tiger.


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