‘WOUNDED but not defeated’, the words that adorn the O’Grady family crest and an appropriate motto for the man who would go on to become world heavyweight champion.
It was an emotional day for three members of the O’Grady family in Ennis who not only were invited to attend the civic reception held in honour of Muhammad Ali’s visit, but they were all personally called on stage by Ali’s wife, Lonnie, to meet the champ.
Lonnie even invited Ali’s Ennis relatives to pay them a visit if they’re ever in America. The tears flowed from the O’Grady women as they got to meet their famous relative and were warmly welcomed into the Ali family.
Imelda O’Grady, Mary O’Grady-Gormley and Mary O’Donovan (nee O’Grady) were all present at the ceremony to represent the extended O’Grady family. And little did they know when they arrived that not only would they get to see The Greatest but that they would be getting up close and personal with the boxing legend.
Prior to the reception, The Clare Champion spoke to all three who expressed their delight at being invited to attend the prestigious occasion. While they all had brought mementos for Ali, they were more than happy to give them to organisers of the event to give to the champ later, not daring to think that they would ever get so close to Ali himself.
However, during the reception, Lonnie Ali asked if there were any O’Gradys present and when the three ladies put their hands up, she welcomed them with open arms onto the stage, hugging all three.
They then presented Ali himself with their gifts including the family crest, photographs of the Turnpike, family histories and a plaque with céad míle fáilte inscribed. When Lonnie was told about the meaning of the O’Grady family crest she laughed, “that’s very appropriate” and told them all “If your ever in America come and visit”.
Ali took a great interest in the gifts, looking through the books carefully and clutching an album of photographs with the title ‘family’ for many of the photographs taken.
All three ladies were then brought backstage to meet with the great man himself and to have their photographs taken with him. Mary O’Donovan said, “ I’m shaking. I never thought for a minute that I would get to meet him. We’ve had lovely photographs taken with him and I got to kiss him over and over. What can I say, it was just unbelievable, the tears are still rolling. It was a dream come true.”
She told how she had spent a long time working on putting together a memento for the day for Ali and it was only the previous day that she discovered the meaning of the family crest.
“When I found out about the family crest, I just couldn’t believe it. The motto is Vulneratus Non Victus, or ‘Wounded but not Defeated’, it was just so poignant,” she said. And when asked if she would take the Alis up on their offer of a place to stay in America she sighed, “wouldn’t it be lovely”.
Imelda meanwhile said, “I never thought for a second I was going to get anything like the welcome we got from him. It is just unreal, a dream come true. I cried the whole way through – it was just so emotional. I couldn’t imagine this day in my wildest, wildest of dreams, I literally was so emotional. They were so nice and so kind, his daughter put her arms around me, his wife was so kind. I don’t know how many times I kissed him. On behalf of the O’Grady family, I would like to thank everyone who made this day possible.”
While Mary O’Grady added, “I’m just overwhelmed, I haven’t words. It was the highlight of my entire life, it was beautiful to meet him and shake and hold his hand.”