By Aoife O’Leary McNeice (@aolmcn)
The coast surrounding Cork Harbour is dappled with little holiday cottages. Ivy and gorse break through the flimsy plywood walls of these boxy bungalows, and paint flakes off to reveal the curious industrial origins of these summer homes. These bungalows started life in the Ford Motors Factory, which opened in Cork City in 1919, and manufactured Fordson Tractors.
Henry Ford chose Cork for several reasons: the city was seen as less vulnerable to German U-boat attacks than British port towns; it was geographically closer to the United States; and it had a large work force, who were used to factory labour. However, Ford also had a sentimental attachment to the city from which his ancestors came. Indeed, he acted against his own economic interest in choosing to keep the factory open in 1922, in a post-independent Ireland, which was subject to import taxes from the UK.
The affection between Ford and the city was mutual. Although the factory on the marina closed in 1984, echoes of this relationship between the American car manufacturer and this Irish Atlantic city remain. The holiday bungalows nestled along the coast, which were constructed using the crates that shipped supplies for the Ford Factory from Britain and the US to Cork are a physical testament to this relationship. From the 1950s to the 1980s these crates could be purchased for roughly £100 from the factory. Many of these bungalows have since been transformed from temporary prefabricated structures into more sturdy dwellings, while others have been abandoned, their roofs peeking out over nettles and blackberries. They are testament to the wide ranging impact the Ford factory had on the city of Cork, influencing the vernacular architecture of the surrounding countryside through cottages made from the castoffs of global trade and industry.
Image: Ford box house in Myrtleville, Co Cork, taken by author