The great grandson of Henry Ford has hailed as "hugely meaningful" a visit by some of his family back to the ancestral home of the industrialist in Ballinascarty in West Cork.
William Clay Ford Jr, executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, visited the village near Clonakilty this morning alongside his wife, Lisa and their sons William and Nicholas, receiving a warm welcome from hundreds of locals and visitors on their first return to the area since 2011.
The group were greeted not just by members of the local Henry Ford Committee, which has sought to preserve the history of the original Ford family which departed for America in 1847 and its links to Ballinscarty, but also by visitors and vintage motor enthusiasts, meaning a fleet of classic cars pitched up at the crossroads village in anticipation of the family’s arrival.
William Clay Ford Jnr unveiled a new plaque next to the instantly recognisable silver Model T car which has become a feature of the village in recent years, commemorating the visit and marking the centenary of establishing of the Ford company in Ireland.
The group also unveiled a new wooden bench bearing a quote from Henry Ford: "Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it."
The Fords, who hail from Dearborn near Detroit, also met their closest relative in West Cork, Hazel Ford Buttimer, who later hosted them for a lunch at the family homestead nearby.
The family also had time for a quick pint at the Henry Ford Tavern, but not before William Ford Jnr had addressed those who turned out to greet them at a special reception in the local community hall.
"For me, this is very much a trip down history lane," he said.
"This is our heritage, this is where the Ford Motor Company began in a metaphorical sense."
He remarked on how he had recently bought the oldest Ford vehicle in existence, one built before Henry Ford had become a great industrialist in the United States and one of the most prominent people in America.
While Henry Ford famously made reference to black motor vehicles, this earliest iteration was bright red, and William said that when that car was delivered his great grandfather was almost broke. The car, he said, had been a gamble, but one which had paid off.
"It’s very rare, especially in America, to have a family company still being run by the family," he said, adding that what was most important was the retention of family values down through the years and existing to service society.
He referred to what Ford, and Ireland, can achieve over the next 100 years and also paid tribute to local people who have kept the family and historical ties alive in West Cork, in particular Hazel Ford Buttimer.
"It really does feel like we are coming home again," he said.
Here are some images form the day courtesy of our reporter Noel Baker
John O’Neill, who arrived today in a 1920 Model TT truck, although he freely admitted that he actually brought it most of the way from his native Ballinadee near Innishannon by trailer. "I cheated today because I was caught for time," he laughed, while sporting a Model T tie.
Another Ford classic present is the former vehicle of Jack Lynch, presented to him by Ford when he was Taoiseach in 1967.
The white 1600 Super is now owned by the West Cork Vintage Society, whose chairman, Albert Harte, explained its history.