William Clay Ford Jr salutes his great-grandfather as he travels back to his roots

When Ford was described by UCC President Professor Patrick G. O’Shea as “a Cork company with an American subsidiary”, it was a remark that perfectly captured the light-hearted mood during the visit of William Clay Ford Jr.

William Clay Ford Jr with wife Lisa and sons William and Nicholas and Chairman of and Managing Director of Henry Ford & Sons Ltd, Ciarán McMahon.

Blue skies and warm sunshine greeted the Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company wherever he went — never more so than on his trip to Ballinascarthy, the West Cork townland where Henry Ford’s father had been born.

William, his wife, Lisa, and their sons, William and Nicholas, posed proudly in the famous silver Model T on the roadside that marks the connection to the company founder.

There was a large turn-out of locals and visitors, and a dozen vintage Ford vehicles parked nearby, for the first visit by a descendant of Henry since William came here in 2011.

The main event was the unveiling of a new plaque next to the Model T. It reads: “To celebrate 100 years of Ford in Cork, the Fords of Dearborn, the descendants of William Ford, returned to visit the home of their ancestors — William Clay Ford Jr, and Lisa Ford and their sons William III and Nicholas, April 20, 2017.”

The drapes were also pulled back on a wooden bench bearing a quote by Henry: “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.”

William sat in the Model T alongside Hazel Forde Buttimer, the family’s closest relation still in West Cork, and who was hosting the group for lunch in her nearby farmhouse, itself one of the original home places of the Ford family.

The visit of the Dearborn, Michigan, arm of the clan was a big deal for local people, with the committee on which Hazel and her friend Betty Hennessy are involved ensuring the links between locals and their Michigan cousins are maintained.

It was a theme taken on by William himself as he addressed the crowd which followed him into the local community hall.

Before he spoke, chairman and MD of Henry Ford & Son Ltd, Ciarán McMahon, said: “It is always fantastic to come back here — such a special village where such a unique heritage is in place.”

He spoke of celebrating family ties and how, even at the height of his fame, Henry Ford “never forgot his roots”.

Henry’s great-grandson picked up that thread, thanking all those who had made such an effort, in particular his relative, Hazel.

“I know it’s a big imposition,” he said of his family visits to her home in nearby Crohane, “but it really feels like we are coming home.

The Ford family also nipped into the nearby Henry Ford Tavern for a pint of plain before enjoying lunch at Hazel’s farmhouse.

The Ford visit concluded the following night with a gala centenary ball at Cork City Hall, attended by various dignitaries, workers past and present, and guests.