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Folk, fables and foibles the guidebook forgot to mention
  • Fergus Manor

4. Ennis's greatest...

Che Guevara (see previous post) was neither the first, nor will he be the last, to find they have an Irish connection ... other notables include Harrison Ford, Mariah Carey, Johnny Depp, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Not so many specifically embrace County Clare as the ancestral home they know and love so, when somebody does, then it’s time to sit up and take note.

When, in the early 1860s, Abe Grady left Turnpike Road in Ennis and emigrated to Kentucky in America few would have thought that in 2009 his great-grandson would return to Ennis and receive the freedom of the town, the first and last ever to have been honoured in this way. 

Abe Grady married an African-American woman, a freed slave (the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln took effect on 1 January, 1863) and he and his wife had several children, one of whom, John Grady, married Birdie Morehead.

Odessa Lee Grady, one of six children born to John and Birdie, went on to marry Cassius Marcellus Clay Senior and, in 1942, their son, Cassius junior, was born.

By the time Cassius Clay visited his ancestral home in Ennis, he was known to the world as Muhammed Ali.

The cottage on Turnpike Road that Abe Grady was born into is long gone so it was on a tidy arc of green­—where it was believed the Grady home once stood—that the infamous and extraordinary ‘Louisville Lip’ unveiled the monument to himself and his origins.

Those who were in Ennis that day, talk of it as being the most incredible and unique occasion, even though everyone knew Ali’s health was failing (he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease). His wife Lonnie described it as “... probably singularly the most exciting day of our lives ... [to] visit his ancestral home and visit his distant relatives is an amazing, amazing day.”

That said, a few have questioned the direct line from Abe Grady to Muhammed Ali, from Turnpike Road in Ennis to Louisville in Kentucky. But it’s clear that Ali himself did not have any such misgivings and, at the end of that memorable day in Ennis, that’s all that really matters.

Although Che Guevara and Muhammed Ali were near contemporaries, they moved in different circles. Nevertheless they did have a few things in common other than having both spend time in the company of Fidel Castro ... their iconic charisma, their Irish roots and an unexpected day-trip to County Clare.

And, ironically, in more than a few of those ‘top ten’ lists that permeate the internet, both Che and Ali frequently hog the top spot as ‘the greatest’ in their chosen path.

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