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Ali's NOT from Ennis; & HIS GREAT-GRANDFATHER WAS BORN IN.. KENTUCKY.

Byline: GORDON DEEGAN

MUHAMMAD Ali's greatgrandfather "never set foot in Ireland", a leading historian claimed yesterday.

Sean Spellissy said he can prove the boxing legend's ancestor was born in Kentucky - 3,000 miles away from his "homeland" of Ennis, Co Clare.

The claims come just weeks after Ali visited the town where he thought his great-grandfather Abe Grady was born.

A specially-commissioned sculpture was put up in his honour with an inscription reading: "To commemorate the visit of 'The Greatest' Muhammad Ali to the ancestral home of his great-grandfather Abe Grady."

During the visit, Ali's wife Lonnie declared: "Now that we know that Muhammad is an Ennis man, we will be back."

But Mr Spellissy has written a historical guide to Ennis and claims Ali's family never lived there. He said: "Abe Grady never set foot in Ireland. From my research, I will be saying in the official guidebook that Abe's father was more than likely from Crusheen."

Crusheen is located eight miles to the north of Ennis.

He added: "Abe's father could have come from the Turnpike in Ennis but more than likely came from the parish of Crusheen.

"He would have had cousins in the Turnpike area and would maybe have visited them time-totime."

Mr Spellissy confirmed that a birth certificate for an Abe Grady dating from 1865 has been located in Kentucky. But he insisted the new evidence "doesn't dilute" Ali's bond with Ireland.

He added: "His links to Clare are also quite solid. For Ennis, they are tenuous enough, but they have a certain validity to Crusheen." Mr Spellissy's guidebook was commissioned by Ennis Town Council and is due to be released at Christmas.

He admitted his investigations began after he became suspicious of the origins of the name Abe.

Mr Spellissy said: "It is an African/American name. It was never around Crusheen or Ennis."

He believes Abe's dad left Ireland for the US in 1849.

Ennis town manager Ger Dollard said the council doesn't regret the decision to honour Ali.

He added: "Ennis Town Council conferred the freedom of the town on Muhammad Ali arising from his ancestral links to Ennis and Co Clare, his outstanding sporting achievements and his contribution to humanitarian issues."

A number of Ennis residents claimed they are related to Ali and are his cousins. However, Mr Spellissy yesterday said: "Someone deserves a red face over this."

CAPTION(S):

GUIDE BOOK Sean Spellissy GLOVE AFFAIR Ali visits Ennis in August
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 6, 2009
Words:410
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