"We’ll be back" - Monday, Sept 7, 2009
MUHAMMAD Ali is set to make a return visit to his ancestral home of Ennis, with his wife Lonnie revealing this week, “we will be back.” Thousands of people turned out on Tuesday to give the boxer a hero’s welcome to Ennis, and the family was so moved by what they witnessed that Lonnie has vowed that the family will make a return visit.
And seeing as the pair are permanent residents of Phoenix Arizona, which has been twinned with Ennis for a long number of years, the couple should have no trouble keeping up-to-date with goings on in Ali’s ancestral home.
Speaking to those gathered for a civic reception in Ennis on Tuesday, which was broadcast live to thousands of fans in Abbey Street Car Park, Lonnie thanked the people of Ennis for the welcome they had given the Ali family.
She said, “It’s interesting because if you look at Muhammad’s pugilistic skills and his loquacious way -- I’m sure if his great-grandfather were alive, he would swear it would have come from him.”
“If he were alive today, I bet he’d be in every pub talking about it,” she laughed.
She told those gathered, “It’s a rare opportunity that we get to come over to Ireland and especially to Ennis. The people of Ennis have been so overwhelming in their outpouring of love for this man and we are sincerely thankful.” And she exclaimed, “Now that we know that Muhammad Ali is an Ennis man, we will be back!” She also invited Ali’s Ennis relatives who attended the civic reception to come and visit them if they are ever in America, warmly embracing them and introducing them to Ali.
Ennis town manager Ger Dollard commented that he expects a return visit from the Ali family to Ennis, particularly in light of the strong links between Phoenix and Ennis.
“We understand that they are permanent residents of Phoenix and we have been twinned with that place for over 20 years. There is a very strong relationship there and we expect a return visit to Ennis,” he said.
-Jessica Quinn, The Clare Champion - Sept 7, 2009. Available online at: http://www.clarechampion.ie/index.php
A proud day for Ali - Tuesday, Sept 1, 2009
He was introduced as a “proud Irish man,” and for those few lucky enough to gain access to the civic reception held in his honour, it was clear that for Muhammad Ali, Tuesday, September 1, the day he returned to his Ennis roots, was indeed a very proud day for both him and his family.
Ali and his family were visibly touched by the outpouring of support and love for this son of Ennis as he returned to his ancestral home.
The civic reception, in which Ali was conferred as the first Honorary Freeman of Ennis, was closed to many, but that didn’t stop the crowds that thronged outside Waterpark House hoping to catch a glimpse of the legendary boxer. At Abbey Street Car Park, proceedings were broadcast live to thousands of people, many of whom had travelled from all over the country to be in Ennis for the occasion.
Inside the Ennis Town Council building, the lucky invited guests gathered to pay tribute to the man known as The Greatest, whose great-grandfather Abe Grady left the Turnpike for the US back in the 1860s.
Speaking to those gathered, town manager Ger Dollard acknowledged the massive level of interest in the event and the thousands who had gathered in Ennis to witness Ali’s homecoming. “The interest in today’s ceremony has been such that this chamber could not accommodate the many people that wished to be a part of such an occasion. Through the use of modern technology, we are joined by thousands of people who are watching this ceremony live on a big screen in Abbey Street or are listening to today’s ceremony on Clare FM.”
While Mayor of Ennis Frankie Neylon commented that Ali had certainly “lived up to that reputation of being the greatest,” he also described Ali as “still the most recognisable man on earth” and “a magical figure known and loved throughout the world.”
“Your success as a boxer is widely respected but your greatest triumph lies in your legacy as a champion, a leader, a humanitarian and an artist. Your work inside and outside the ring truly makes you the greatest of all time,” he said.
President of Alltech, the company that facilitated the visit, Dr. Pearse Lyons told those gathered, “We are here in Ennis because it’s from Ennis that this great voyage started. It’s from Ennis that Muhammad Ali’s Irish roots started.” He recalled how Ali first got involved in boxing and was set on the path that would change his life forever.
“A guy stole his bike and he thought he would fix that guy who stole it. A policeman said to him, 'Before you go beating up on somebody, why don’t you do something constructive rather than destructive?' and the rest, of course, is history. That is a lesson in inspiration for each and every one of us as we inspire people to be the greatest they can be.”
He described Ali as an “icon and a legend” whose impact on the world has transcended boxing. He outlined that Ali and his people stand for “respect, dedication, commitment and conviction.”
Introducing Ali to those gathered at the reception, Dr. Lyons said, “He is an icon from Ennis, possibly the greatest inspiration in the world, the champ, a proud Irish man.”
Ali and his family were greeted with a standing ovation as they took to the stage for the ceremony in which town clerk Eddie Power conveyed the honorary freedom of Ennis on the three-time world boxing champ.
Ali’s wife, Lonnie, spoke on his behalf and thanked everybody present at the civic reception and everybody in Ennis for the “warm, warm welcome” they had received.
“I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is for us to be here and to be in Muhammad’s ancestral home and to finally know where his great-grandfather Abe Grady emigrated from,” she said.
The scroll of the Freedom of the Town was conferred on Ali and presented on calligraphy parchment with Celtic Gaeilge lettering. It was fitted in a piece of bog oak titled Heart of Oak. Mr Dollard explained, “Oak in the old thesaurus has its meaning as determined, strong and stalwart, which are particularly appropriate to today’s recipient.”
The civic reception also saw the unveiling of a plaque which will be placed in the Turnpike area. The plaque forms part of a larger sculpture titled Wonder of the World which has been commissioned by Ennis Town Council from Michael McTigue, cousin of Michael McTigue, light heavyweight champion of the world from 1923 to 1925.
As a memento of the event, Councillor Neylon presented Ali with a print from the Lawrence collection showing an image of the Turnpike area in the late 19th century along with an official Ennis town tie. A specially crafted clock made from natural slate from near the Cliffs of Moher was given to Lonnie, while a copy of The Scattering – Images of Emigrants from an Irish County was given to Dr. Lyons and Alltech for their contribution.
Also at the reception, Ali was conferred as honorary president of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland.
-Jessica Quinn, The Clare Champion - Sept 1, 2009. Available online at: http://www.clarechampion.ie/index.php
Details Of Muhammad Ali Visit To County Clare Are Confirmed - Monday, Aug 17, 2009
Members of Ennis Town Council today unanimously passed a motion that will see boxing legend Muhammad Ali being named as the first Honorary Freeman of the Clare County Capital. The former world heavyweight champion, now 67 and fighting Parkinson's disease, will visit the birthplace of his great grandfather during the afternoon of Tuesday, 1 September 2009.
A Civic Reception, the highest honor that a Local Authority can give, will take place in Waterpark House, Drumbiggle, at 3pm before the Ali embarks on a drive throughout the town and the birthplace of his great grandfather.
Ennis Town Council has confirmed it is working with Sports Academy International to host a public open-air event in the center of Ennis for the duration of the visit. Members of the public will be able to view the Civic Reception on the big screen along with enjoying live music and entertainment. Ennis Town Council will also be hosting an exhibition of Muhammad Ali memorabilia along with street entertainment throughout the town.
Ali's ancestor Abe Grady emigrated from his home on the Turnpike Road in Ennis to the United States in the 1860s. Grady sailed from Cappa Harbour in Kilrush, County Clare, eventually settling in Kentucky, where he married an African-American woman. Their son also married an African-American and one of the daughters of that union was Ali's mother, named Odessa Lee Grady. She married Cassius Clay Sr. and they settled in Louisville, where their son was initially given his father's name upon his birth in 1942. He later changed his name to Muhammad Ali when he converted to the Nation of Islam after winning the world title in 1964.
Mayor of Ennis Frankie Neylon explained: "Ennis Town Council has decided to make Ali an Honorary Freeman in recognition of his direct links with Ennis and the county of Clare, his unrivaled sporting achievements on the world stage, and his contribution to educational and charitable causes through his global fundraising foundation."
The Mayor continued: "The public and media interest that has been generated by this planned visit has been immense and I believe that the publicity surrounding it will result in thousands of additional visitors to the town. I have no doubt that the people of Clare will turn out in huge numbers to welcome Muhammad Ali and that the boxer himself will thoroughly enjoy his visit to the Ireland's Banner County."
-PRLog (Press Release) - Aug 17, 2009. Available online at: www.prlog.org