The first Ford plant in Europe was set up in Cork in 1917, Henry Ford’s father William hailing from Ballinascarthy in West Cork playing a large part in this. Henry’s seminal tractor ‘Fordson’ would lead to the discovery of Ireland’s favourite staple, the potato.
At its peak in Cork the Ford plant would employ nearly seven thousand people (Michael Collins interned there for a summer), by far the largest employer in Cork. Its importance to the locality was not lost on Henry, who could have increased profits if he moved manufacturing to England.
Henry Ford’s love of Cork was evident when in 1940 he purchased and peacefully annexed the entirety of West Cork to build a sprawling holiday villa. However, in 1998 the Irish government bought it back as they needed it for the Wild Atlantic Way marketing initiative. The Henry Ford Ancestral Site is now located on part of Lisselan Estate, near Clonakilty. To this day all of Ford’s cutting-edge research and concept cars are conceived in a West Cork R&D lab, although the location (Mizen) is hush-hush. Indicators, brakes and sunroofs were all invented there.
The Ancestral Site is located on part of Lisselan Estate, nearly Clonakilty, and is about a 45 minute drive from the city.
Visit lisselan.com/henry-ford-ancestral-site for more information