Conor Healy got a real blast of nostalgia one day when he was browsing through postcards at a shop in Youghal.
There, taking centre stage in a fabulous colourful photograph of Youghal Strand by famed photographer John Hinde, was the old Ford Prefect (circled above) that had belonged to his late father, Paddy Healy.
“When we saw the number — ZB 6767 — we knew it was his,” says Conor, of Dripsey, Co Cork.
Hinde took hundreds of photographs across Ireland in the 1950s and 1960s and his postcards are now world-famous.
For Conor, it was a memorable case of Hinde-sight.
His father worked for Henry Ford & Son in Cork for 38 years and became the foreman of the paint department.
“He purchased the Prefect, his first car, in 1959,” says Conor. “He soon had it looking like new after he resprayed the paintwork and reupholstered the interior in our garage at home.
“He rebuilt the engine in the spare bedroom and I can remember him telling me how he had to lift ‘that bloody engine block’ up the stairs.”
Conor believes the postcard photo was taken soon after his father bought the car and says:
“Youghal was a regular Sunday spin for the family at the time — if we had the half a crown for petrol, my mother, Sheila, said. The green area was my father’s preferred parking spot.
“He drove many Ford models down the years, Escorts, Cortinas, Orions and Fiestas.”
Paddy was born in 1929 and grew up in a house on the Carrigrohane ‘Straight’ Road.
His father, John, had an upholstery business in a workshop next door and one of his contracts was for Dodge cars, which were assembled in Cork in the 1930s.
Conor adds: “The workshop was a good vantage point for my father to view the car racing activities on the Carrigrohane Straight at the time. However, it was a long walk to his school, St Joseph’s in the Mardyke.”
Paddy was an apprentice for Joe Hegarty’s car spray painting business off Patrick Street and in 1946, aged 17, started a new job in Ford’s paint department.
Conor says: “He was one of the few to master ‘pin striping’, which required a steady hand and involved the painting of a narrow decorative line along the side of a car with a fine brush.
“When he became foreman he had the opportunity to visit other Ford plants in Europe with a view to bringing the latest paint spraying technology to the Cork plant.”
A copy of Ford News from 1972 shows Paddy accepting a ‘Good Housekeeping Trophy’ on behalf of the paint department from plant manager Frank Dillon.
“He remained in charge of the department until the plant closure in 1984 after serving 38 years with the company,” says Conor.
“Everyone was saddened at the closure of Ford, they were undoubtedly one of Cork’s greatest employers.”
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