Sunday 4 December 2016

Penneys founder pays tribute to his 'hero' son

Published 06/07/2015 | 02:30

Arthur Ryan is consoled at the funeral of his son Barry
Arthur Ryan is consoled at the funeral of his son Barry
Paul and Catherine O’Connor comfort daughter Clodagh at the funeral of her sister Niamh

Pennys founder Arthur Ryan hailed his son Barry as a true hero for having sacrificed his own life in a brave but doomed bid to save his son and his son's girlfriend from drowning.

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The 80-year-old's tribute was echoed at Barry Ryan's funeral yesterday, which took place while his son, Barry Davis Ryan, is still missing at sea.

Mourners heard a heart-rending tribute from Barry Ryan's partner, Ann Davis, who said the father of three would have done anything for their beloved children.

Mr Ryan (51) drowned alongside his son and his son's girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20), in a freak accident at East Hole, outside Baltimore in Cork, last Tuesday.

Ms O'Connor was swept into the sea by a wave as the family group enjoyed an evening coastal stroll.

Her boyfriend, Barry Davis Ryan, immediately dived in to save her.

When he then got into difficulty, his father dived into the sea in a bid to rescue the youngsters.

Mr Ryan's funeral took place at a packed Rath Church outside Baltimore as the search continued for a sixth day for his son's body in the harbour just 3km away.

The alarm was raised last Tuesday by Barry Ryan's daughter, Charlotte (14), who was yesterday comforted by her mother Ann, brother, Arthur, and grandparents, Arthur and Rose Ryan.

The congregation included members of the emergency services, Niamh O'Connor's family and representatives from some of Ireland's biggest retailer and investment groups, including developer Michael O'Flynn.

Arthur Ryan, in a message read out by Ann's brother-in-law, Danny, remarked on his son's remarkable courage and sacrifice.

"You are my hero," he said. "We love you, Barry, and miss you and you will always be in our hearts."

The deceased's mother, Rose, said he was "a free spirit". "Our Barry was very special. He loved anything to do with nature. In fact, if it was up to Barry, Foxrock would resemble Killarney National Park with planted trees."

Mr Ryan adored Baltimore and spent as much of his time in west Cork as possible, despite working as a senior executive with Penneys based in Dundrum, Dublin.

Fr Chris O'Donovan, who was assisted by the Bishop of Cork & Ross, Dr John Buckley, echoed the tributes to Mr Ryan's courage and sacrifice.

"No greater love can a man have than that he lays down his life for his friend," he said.

Niamh O'Connor's funeral took place on Saturday with her father Paul saying that his daughter was "a stunner" who had found "the love of her life" in Barry Davis Ryan.

"He idolised her and she idolised him. He was her soulmate," he said.

Irish Independent

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