In 1917 Henry Ford, who had family connections with both Fair Lane in Cork city and Ballinascarthy in County Cork, decided to establish a factory for manufacturing tractors in Cork on the site of the old Cork Park Racecourse near the Marina. The factory was huge with a final floor area of 330,000 square feet.
On 3 July 1919 the first Fordson tractor built in Cork rolled off the production line. By 1926 there were about 1800 men employed at the Ford plant. A soccer club called Fordsons was founded. The club won the Free State Cup in 1926. The fans of Fordsons would cheer on the team by calling out 'Come on the Tractors'. After the end of the First World War the demand for tractors fell sharply. The Cork plant now began to manufacture components for Ford cars including the famous Model T. In 1929 production of Ford tractors began at the Cork factory again and the plant became, for a time, the only Ford plant in the world making tractors. The early 1930s proved to be a difficult time for the Cork factory which struggled to cope with the Depression and the Economic War between Britain and the Irish Free State. Production of tractors was transferred to the Ford plant in Dagenham in Essex. Many Corkmen emigrated to work in the Dagenham factory which became known as 'Little Cork'.
In the late 1930s the economic climate had improved considerably and Ford cars dominated the Irish market. During the Second World War car production at the factory ceased as vital components became impossible to obtain and workers at the factory produced tools for general use and equipment for the Irish Army. In 1946 the first post-war car built at the Cork factory was produced and the company resumed its domination of the Irish car market. Major extensions to the factory were made in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The removal of tariff barriers after Ireland entered the EEC caused major difficulties for the company as it struggled to compete with cheaper cars imported from Europe. Financial losses mounted and the Cork plant was finally closed on Friday 13 July 1984. An era in the industrial history of Cork had ended.
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