A family of four generations who worked for Ford

For more than a century, the Bourke family have worked for Ford in Ireland in some way — four generations since 1910.

Aodh & Judith Bourke meeting Henry Ford II in Killarney in 1977.

Aodh Bourke is proud to be a link in that long-running chain.

And there are no hard feelings about the only generation not to make the cut — Aodh’s father never worked for Ford, but became famous in his own right as the artist, Micheál de Búrca!

The Bourke family link to the motor company began in the West of Ireland in 1910.

“That year, my great- grandfather, Joseph Bourke, became the second Ford dealer in Ireland, in Castlebar,” says Aodh.

At the time, two other dealers were appointed, Gilbrides’ in Sligo and Limerick Motorworks, taken over by Ken Lyons and now trading as Lyons of Limerick.

This was seven years before Henry Ford registered his Irish company, when dealers had to export Fords from Britain and the US.

Joseph Bourke’s venture was a success and he went on to open a second dealership, in Westport, in 1918.

By then, his company was trading as Joseph Bourke and Sons and the family link was under way.

The ‘Sons’ in the title were Aodh’s grandfather, Thomas, and his grand-uncles Chappie and Josie.

“Chappie was the main Ford dealer for Westport and Josie managed Castlebar,” Aodh says. “My grandfather, Thomas, switched franchises with his brother Josie in 1945 and they became Josie Bourke and Son and that’s the business that kept going until the 1970s.”

The family went on to sell the dealership to the Caseys of Roscommon.

It was at this stage that the family link was broken, when Thomas’s son, Micheál de Búrca, decided on a career in art.

However, Micheál’s son, Aodh, has resumed the connection with Ford.

Born in Mayo, he started his internship with the Irish company in 1964.

Chappie Bourke, Ford Main Dealer for Westport in Model T.

“I came into Ford when I was a student in DIT in Dublin,” says Aodh. “I was able to get in under what they called the ‘dealers succession programme’ so I did two years’ work experience while I was in college with Ford.”

Soon after, he moved to Cork to work for Ford in service, sales and marketing.

When the Marina plant closed in 1984, Aodh established A.S.A. Marketing Group in Ballinlough.

“Since I founded the company we’ve been providing database and marketing services to Ford,” says Aodh. “We work like an extension of the marketing department.”

As well as Ford, A.S.A Marketing has other big name customers such as Facebook, Oracle and Boston Scientific.

Aodh is delighted that the Bourke connection to Ford has continued into a fourth generation.

“My daughters, Michelle and Caroline, are now the next generation with that connection. It’s unusual. Not many families have such a connection to the company.

“My great grandfather... all my family were there,my cousins, uncles and aunts and everything. Then I joined Ford and I was with them 20 years.

“We came from sellers of vehicles to providers of services on the marketing side.”

When Ford Motor Company celebrated its centenary a few years ago, the Bourkes wanted to mark the occasion.

“We invited everybody in Ford Ireland to an event called ‘Once in a summer time’,” says Aodh. “We told them they could wear any colour they liked — so long as it was black! We had a fantastic night, it was brilliant.”

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