Cormac MacConnell: Here’s hoping you’re all Owen Kelly today

OK! How a Clonakilty man left his mark on the English language (and the Model T Ford car).

Are ye all OK today, despite all the pressures being imposed by staying up half the night to watch the Olympics, and keeping up with all the rest of the home sport of every kind, on about every front?

I trust that you are all surviving thus far, and have enough energy left over to relish the truly sensational yarn MacConnell has reserved for you this week.

OK? Away we go, with the details of exactly how a Clonakilty farmer’s son named Kelly has left an amazing legacy behind him, which touches us all today and every day.

He was born about 150 years ago, equipped not only with a keen brain, but also with a mighty pair of mechanic’s hands.

In all fairness, he has made more of an impression on the English language we use daily than even Shakespeare.

Hard to believe, but then the truth often is.

He being at the tail end of the family, the farm was already handed over to the eldest son, and young Kelly emigrated to the States in his early twenties, and arrived there, according to my research, around the turn of the last century.

I do not have his complete employment history, but it has been suggested to me that, before he moved to Michigan, he had already become a very skilled mechanic, working on the huge, hand-built automobiles which just then were becoming the toys of the very rich and famous.

It was a different story though in Michigan, where he met and became a close aide of Henry Ford, at the time when Henry was just beginning the assembly-line project for the launch of the Model T car for the ordinary man.

They first worked together from about 1909 and, whilst Henry was very much the leader of the project, young Kelly from Clonakilty, because of his brainpower, energy, and those gifted hands, very rapidly became a highly trusted lieutenent.

And, about ten years later, when the auto industry’s first assembly line was churning out the Model Ts that were selling like very hot cakes altogether, young Kelly was entrusted with the vital task of being the industry’s very first quality control inspector.

He was earning about twelve dollars a day, double the pay of the assembly workers on the line.

Assiduously, painstakingly, missing nothing, he closely examined the inners and outers and engines of every car that came off the line.

He rejected any vehicle with the slightest flaw but, when satisfied with the product, he chalked his initials on the running boards.

The cars were selling so strongly that the salesmen would be waiting in droves to drive them away, and it was those salesmen, on looking at the scrawled initials, who first began to say excitedly, “This one is good. This one is OK!”

I’m sorry if I omitted to tell ye above that Kelly’s good Christian name was Owen and, because of that, he was the man who gave the term OK to the whole wide world ever since.

There have been arguments and debates on the history of the term down the years.

The English tried to claim it, of course, and so did the Choctaw Indians and the Boston Morning Post newspaper, amongst others.

Even Donald Trump’s Republicans tried to claim it, for Old Kinderhook, better known as Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the US (1837–41).

However, if it is OK with all of you out there, I am totally satisfied with the quality of my research.

I salute Owen Kelly for his achievement a century ago, and stick to my guns that this yarn, yet again, is the pure truth. OK?


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