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Ford boss pays tribute to Ballinascarthy Foróige film

October 24th, 2016 10:10 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

The Ballinascarthy Foróige Club in action on the movie set.

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A FILM made by Ballinascarthy Foroige Club, which was premiered last weekend, will form part of Henry Ford & Sons’ centenary celebrations in Ireland next year.

That promise was made at the film’s premiere, in Ballinascarthy Hall, by Ciarán McMahon, managing director of Ford Ireland.

Mr McMahon said he also hoped to bring the executive chairman of Ford Motors, William Clay Ford Jnr, to Ballinascarthy – the ancestral home of Henry Ford – during the company’s celebrations of its 100 years in Ireland.

The film, The Fordes of Ballinascarty, was unveiled to a packed house on the village hall last Saturday night, after the massive cast of local people and members of Kilmeen Drama Group, walked up the red carpet to the stage.

The film was introduced by the local Foroige Club chairperson Clara Crowley, and it was preceded by a concert of local talent, many of whom also feature in the movie.

The night was MC’ed by Brian O’Neill and Tadgh Crowley, and attended by film maker Tim McCoy, who had given his expertise and equipment to the Forogie Club.

Film maker Maurice O’Callaghan launched the 40-minute film, and pointed out that he had also started small, with miniscule budgets, before his career took off, later directing his 1994 feature, Broken Harvest.

He said that he had been to events in Hollywood and around the world, but he had never seen such a wonderful introduction to a movie as was put on display in Ballinascarthy Hall. He paid tribute to all the wonderful musicians who had entertained the audience before the movie.

The Forde movie (the family dropped the ‘e’ after they arrived in America, and Ballinascarthy didn’t  have a ‘h’ back then, either!) begins in West Cork in the offices of Thomas Bayley solicitior, in May 1819, when the Ford family discuss the terms of the lease on their landlord’s farm.

A few decades later we see the family in danger of eviction as their potato crop fails, a story echoed by neighbours all around them. 

They reluctantly opt to emigrate to the US and the sad, long journey to Cork by horse and trap is well documented in the movie but, as one neighbour tells John (Donal Walsh) Ford: ‘You have a much longer journey ahead of you after Cork’.

Indeed they do, and a much more tragic one, too, as John’s wife Thomasina (Nora Scannell) gets ill on the disease and rat-ridden boat, and dies hours before they land in Canada.

We learn that, after that horrific start to their ‘new life’ in the US, John makes his way to his brother in Michigan, and his son William, who travelled with them from Cork, is later to be married to Mary Lilogot. The couple later have a son who they name Henry, and he is to become one of the world’s most famous industrialists.

Seeing the modest origins of the Ford family, and knowing now the huge influence John and Thomasina’s grandchild has had on the world, one has to wonder how the story of the Ford family has not been filmed before.

The same thought passed through the mind of film maker Tim McCoy, who spoke of his interest in telling history through the media of film. ‘I am extremely proud of these young people, they were brilliant!’ he said, of the Foróige members he had worked with, over 18 months, on the film.

Ciarán McMahon of Ford said he knew the family in the US were very proud of their roots. And he also revealed that Edsel Ford Jnr, Henry’s grandson and a cousin of William Clay Jnr, had watched the film during the week. 

‘He thought it was outstanding, really fantastic,’ he said.

And he promised it would be a part of next year’s centenary celebrations of Ford’s 100 years in Cork, which will mark the opening of its Irish factory on April 17th, 1917.

He pointed out the Irish Ford company was the only one in the group that still kept Henry’s name in the title (Henry Ford & Son) as all the other Ford companies went under the name Ford Motor Company.

‘I hope, with your permission,’ he told the audience, ‘that the movie will feature in some of our centenary exhibitions.’

And he added that he hoped to be back in West Cork during those celebrations, too. ‘In April, we hope to bring Bill [William] Ford to Cork to celebrate, and we hope to bring him back to Ballinascarthy too.’

He recalled William’s last visit to West Cork in 2011, when he unveiled a plaque to the memory of his great grandfather in Ballinascarthy.

‘He was delighted with the welcome from the community here,’ he added.

At the end of the night, a presentation was made to Foróige leader Betty Hennessy and her colleague Kate Crowley was also thanked too, for the huge amount of work which had gone into the making of the film.

West Cork Foróige representative  John Dennigan paid tribute to all the members of the youth group and paid particular tribute to Betty Hennessy who, he called, the ‘Mammy’ of West Cork Foróige.

‘We had a very high standard of performers here tonight,’ he said.

The Fordes of Ballinascarty will be shown again on Wednesday October 26th at 12 noon in Ballinascarthy Hall for schools, or anyone who would like to see it Booking: 086 4540981.

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