The Corkman who brought a piece of the auld sod home to Ford HQ in the US

When Cork-based Ford dealer William Slattery II paid a visit to the company’s HQ in the US in 1955, he decided to bring a little piece of Ireland over with him.

William’s roots were in Ahiohill, just a few miles away from the Ford clan’s West Cork homeland of Ballinascarthy.

So he salvaged a stone from the rubble of the old Ford homestead and presented it to the family.

The visit took place in June, 1955, and at the time William was running Slattery’s of Bandon — one of the biggest Ford dealerships in Ireland.

His nephew, Jerry Slattery, said William had the stone he chose mounted as ‘The Stone of Ballinascarthy’, and presented it to Benson Ford Snr, grandson of Henry, in Dearborn, Michigan. The stone later took pride of place on the family’s Fair Lane estate.

The event was recorded on old cine film and made the front page of that week’s Cork Examiner.

At the time, Benson was in charge of the Lincoln-Mercury division of Ford.

A journalist wrote of William’s voyage: “With him on the Cunard liner Britannic, he carried a single mossy stone, just an ordinary stone from a farm at Ballinascarthy, but a stone which is of great sentimental value to the Ford family in Detroit.”

Before his visit, William also sent a photo of the remnants of the home to Benson’s mother, Eleanor.

In Jerry’s memorabilia, a letter sent to William from Eleanor’s office thanks him for sending the picture.

The Slattery family’s links with Ford stretch back more than 100 years, to 1913, when William Slattery I was awarded a Ford dealership.

A publican and bicycle shop owner, he was born in Ahiohill, but settled in the nearby town of Bandon after getting married.

“He opened a bicycle shop there and bicycles were absolutely huge, which would have been the main mode of transport for upmarket people, other than the horse and cart if you go back that far,” Jerry says.

William is believed to have been the first Catholic in Ireland to be awarded a Ford dealership.

“Don’t forget we were still part of Great Britain, it was before the War of Independence,” adds Jerry.

Slattery’s Ford dealership sold just three cars in its first year of business — the first was to a local doctor — and eight more the year after.

“Their biggest problem was getting cars because they all had to be imported,” Jerry explains. “After Mr Slattery Snr passed away in 1922, his eldest son, my uncle William Slattery II, took over the garage, along with my father, John.”

The dealership went on to be one of the most successful in the country.

In December, 1936, Slattery’s garage bought the first 22-horsepower V8 Ford that came off the production line from the Marina and there is a picture of them with the vehicle.

“William became hugely successful, his was the biggest Ford dealership in West Cork,” said Jerry. “You’re talking about one of the biggest in the country.

“Apparently, he was the first to have a leasing company around cars, so had hire purchase. That was all new.”

Amongst’s Jerry’s memorabilia are telegraphs and correspondence from the offices of Ford, and even a poem about the handover of the stone.

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