HENRY Ford’s closest blood relation in Ireland has questioned the theory that the Ford family, originally from Ballinascarthy in West Cork, once spelled their name as ‘Forde’.
Donal Ford Murphy made contact with The Southern Star after reading our article about the film made by Ballinascarthy Foroige Club on the emigration of the Ford family from West Cork to Michigan.
John Ford, who left the family homestead due to the Famine, went on to become the grandfather of Henry Ford, who became one of the world’s richest men after his success in the motor industry.
‘I don’t believe the family ever used an ‘e’ in their name,’ Donal told The Southern Star recently. He was responding to comments by Foroige members who believed the family had dropped the ‘e’ when they arrived in the US.
‘I think the family were always Ford,’ said Donal, who added that his great, great grandfather was Stephen Ford, a brother of John’s.
Donal’s connection is on his mother, Margaret’s, side. Margaret Ford was a daughter of George Ford. ‘The family used to call George ‘The Prince’, as he was a second cousin of Henry’s,’ recalled Donal.
George’s father was Robert Ford, and Robert’s father was Stephen.
George was the first of those men to leave the Madame townland in the Ballinascarthy area of West Cork – because after he got married he set up home at Convent Road in Clonakilty.
Donal, who lives off Richmond Hill in Cork city, says he traced his roots many years ago and has been acknowledged by the Ford family in Michigan as being a blood relation.
Robert Ford had the only independent pub in the Ballinascarthy area at one time, explained Donal, as all the other public houses were owned by breweries. ‘Robert Ford’ was over the door.
Before Robert, the family were Church of Ireland, but he converted to marry his Catholic wife. ‘My grandfather, George, made the connection when the local creamery manager said to him that he heard Henry Ford was seeking his Irish relations,’ said Donal. ‘George went around all the local Church of Ireland clergy and gathered up the information to send to America.’
He said his family were told that Henry Ford later had a photo of George in his living room in Michigan, and that he requested some stones from the family homestead in Ballinascarthy were gathered and sent to him – and they were installed in the brickwork around his fireplace, at his mansion in Michigan.
In another strange twist, Donal worked as a security man in the former Dunlop factory beside Fords on the marina in Cork city. ‘Fords had offices in the Dunlop building, and some times at the weekend, because I was the only one with keys, I would have to let them in!’