12. Ford Box Bungalow

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

3 thoughts on “12. Ford Box Bungalow

  1. Interesting! I hadn’t known of the Ford-Ireland connection.
    In the Pocono Mts of Pennsylvania, there were post-WWII cottages or hunters’ huts built using crates. At very little expense, you’d purchase a surplus Waco glider, like the ones used in Operation Market-Garden, and it was shipped via railroad. Some of the gliders had been built by crate/box manufacturers, and the shipping containers were sturdy and well-made. The glider was discarded, and door/windows/roof added to the crate.

  2. What a brilliant article. There was certainly a caché attached to having a Ford Box to spend the family holiday in and they were almost certainly driven to in Perfects, Escorts or Cortinas. The closure of Ford in ’84 was a seismic event in Cork. Although the redundancy payments to the workers themselves were generous, the overall economic impact was devastating in an already depressed city and of course Ford’s near neighbour on the Marina, Dunlop, closed the same year. But beyond the economic impact, Cork was diminished by the loss of Ford. A great American Entrepreneur (from Cork originally, you know) who opened his first factory outside the US in Cork (sure where else would he put it). Ford was regarded as a Cork company first and foremost that had done well for itself in America. It’s closure felt like the loss of a close and much loved relation and the city grieved that loss for some time.

  3. On Sherkin Island where I’m from the shop/post office in the late 1960s and 1970s was made out of Ford packing boxes. I only found out more about this type of construction recently and found a few (including this) very interesting articles about it. This is a wonderful example of how material can be put to use once it has served its original purpose, a lovely example of reusing and recycling to create something that gave so much value in return.

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