Ennis family plan warm welcome for US relative Ali


AN ENNIS woman with possible family links to boxing legend, Muhammad Ali said yesterday that she and her family would be delighted to welcome him to the town next month.

One of a family of seven, Mary O’Donovan was commenting on plans by the three-time world champion to visit Ennis on September 1st to trace his roots as part of the American’s Irish visit.

Seven years ago, staff at the Clare Heritage Centre at Corofin discovered that Ali’s great-grand-father was an Ennis man, Abe Grady, who was born in the Turnpike area of Ennis in the 1840s.

Mary’s late mother, Eileen, who died last December in her early 80s, was the last known O’Grady to live in the Turnpike.

Mary, an Ennis resident, said: “My grandfather and great-grandfather were both called Patrick O’Grady and they were the only O’Gradys to live in the Turnpike.

“Abe might have been a brother or uncle of Patrick O’Grady, who lived on the Turnpike. It is quite possible that I am related to Muhammad Ali, but we are going to check the links at the heritage centre in the coming days.”

Muhammad Ali has been afflicted by Parkinson’s disease and Mary said that her mother, Eileen, also suffered from the disease as did a number of her cousins.

She said: “My family and I, along with our cousins, would be more than delighted to meet with Muhammad Ali.”

Speaking back in 2002, Mary’s late mother, Eileen appeared nonplussed about the possible connection. “There is the possibility that myself and Ali are related – my family go back here a long time. Though if myself and Muhammad Ali are related, I have to say it is not something that makes me excited. I always thought he was a bit too brash.”

Mayor of Ennis Cllr Frankie Neylon (Ind) said yesterday that Ennis “would not be found wanting” in celebrating Ali’s links to one of the oldest parts of the town.

He confirmed that the town council has issued a formal invite to Muhammad Ali to visit the Clare town. “Negotiations have been continuing over the past couple of days with the promoters of Ali’s visit to Ireland and we are quietly confident that Ali will come to Ennis.”

According to genealogist at the Clare Heritage Centre, Antoinette O’Brien, Abe Grady emigrated to the US in the 1860s. It is believed he may have dropped the “O” from his surname in the US.

Abe Grady settled in Kentucky, where he married an African-American woman. It is understood that their son also married an African-American woman and one of their daughters was Ali’s mother, Odessa Lee Grady.

In the 1930s, Odessa married Cassius Clay snr and they settled in Louisville, Kentucky, before their son and future sporting icon Cassius was born in 1942.