Monday, 17 April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Ford in Ireland, when Henry Ford put Ireland on the road to industry.
In the summer of 1912, Henry Ford paid his one and only visit to Ireland. At that time, he was one of the most famous people in the United States but his trip to Ireland went virtually unnoticed.
He was here for the same reason thousands of Irish-Americans visit Ireland every year: to explore his family roots. Henry’s father had emigrated to the US in 1847, but the family never forgot their Irish roots – nor did Henry.
On that trip in 1912, Henry – together with his wife Clara and son Edsel – spent time in Cork city before making a poignant visit to the family homestead in Ballinascarthy, near Clonakilty. The family departed the following day.
On the long voyage back to his US home of Detroit, Henry must have reflected on what he had seen in Ireland. We know that he was troubled by the poverty he had witnessed, and he resolved to “try and do something” to help the people of Cork.
That he did. Just five years later, on 17 April 1917, Henry Ford and Son Limited was established on the old Marina in Cork – to this day, the only Ford operation in the world to bear the full name of its famous founder.
In the years that followed, Ford not only made a huge socio-economic contribution to Cork but also transformed the wider industrial landscape of Ireland. By the 1930s, the factory employed more than 7000 people, making Ford the second-largest employer in the entire Free State (second only to the railways).
Some of the world’s most iconic vehicles were built there, including the legendary Model T. (The last Model T ever built, anywhere in the world, rolled off the production line in Cork.)
Deep recession and changing EEC regulations forced the closure of the plant in 1984, however by that stage the factory had fulfilled Henry Ford’s vision of “setting Ireland on the road to industry”. An estimated 20,000 people were employed in the factory between 1917 and 1984; indeed, during certain periods some 8% of Cork city’s entire population was employed by Ford.
Today, Cork is still home to Ford. The company is still at the forefront of its industry, even if that industry is changing beyond recognition. For ‘auto-maker’, read ‘mobility provider’, as Ford and others explore ways of extending mobility solutions to all citizens in a world that feels a lot smaller than it did 100 years ago.
Autonomous vehicles are central to the new mobility revolution, with Ford planning to test a driverless fleet across Europe during 2017 – a fitting tribute to a centenary of innovation and evolution.
As part of the company’s 100-year celebrations, a host of activities are planned including a visit ‘home’ by Henry Ford’s great-grandson, the current Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, William Clay Ford Jr.
Here at Cullen Communications, we’re delighted to have played our part in the centenary celebrations.
We’re proud to have worked with Ford for more than a quarter of a century.
And we look forward to the many exciting challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
From all of us, congratulations to all at Henry Ford and Son Limited – here’s to the next 100 years!