The popular Irish businessman was regarded as Princess Margaret's 'man about town', writes Barry Duggan
NED Ryan, who died on November 9 last aged 78, was given a royal send-off at his funeral in his native Tipperary last week following a life spent in high society in the United Kingdom.
The highly successful and extremely popular businessman was a close friend of the late Princess Margaret.
Such was the regard in which he was held by members of the royal family that Queen Elizabeth's daughter-in-law, the Countess of Wessex, Sophie Rhys-Jones and Viscount David Linley joined hundreds of mourners at the Sacred Heart church in Upperchurch, Co Tipperary, for Monday's funeral.
Ned left his family home at The Line, Shevry, Upperchurch in Co Tipperary at the age of 15 to work in a drapery business in Dublin. From a farming background, Ned proved to be equally adept at business and at the age of 17 emigrated to London where he became a very successful antiques dealer and property developer. He made numerous contacts through work and commerce and was soon rubbing shoulders with Britain's elite classes at various parties and gatherings.
In the early Seventies, the Tipperary man found himself sitting alongside Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's sister, at a dinner party given by the Russian/Swiss actress turned hotelier, Anouska Hempel. At the time, Ryan had a stall in London's Portobello Road antiques market.
Ned -- a charming and colourful man -- invited Princess Margaret to the Bermondsey market in the East End where he regularly scouted for bargains each Friday. She duly arrived early the following Friday so as to avoid the crowds and Ned gave her a tour.
While the event was supposed to be private visit, at one stage Ned -- in gallant style -- flung his cloak over a puddle so that Margaret would not get her feet wet and all stall holders soon realised who was in their presence. Photographs were snapped and Ned Ryan made the national press.
The pair became close friends and remained so for more than 30 years with Ryan regarded as her 'man about town' in London. On one occasion, Ned escorted the late princess to a Rolling Stones concert in Earls Court and later to a drinks reception held by actress, Joan Collins. He was a regular attendee in the royal boxes at Wimbledon, Ascot and York and was often seen dining with the princess in restaurants such as Poissonnerie de l'Avenue in South Kensington, or Le Caprice and Harry's Bar in Mayfair. He even cooked her Irish stew at his home in Knightsbridge.
When Princess Margaret died in 2002, Ned was one of the first to be contacted about the death of his close friend.
He regularly returned home to Upperchurch and was regarded by all in the small community as a very popular man. He donated generously to a ball held in Thurles in aid of Cancer Care organised by his niece Ann Ryan and her friend Margaret Ryan four years ago.
Ned passed away last week following a long battle with cancer at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London surrounded by family and friends.
At his funeral, Fr Lottie Brennan, Ned's first cousin, said he "would have wished him a longer life, but couldn't have wished him a better life".
Among the chief mourners were Ned's brothers, Pakie and Thomas, and sister, Chris and many nephews and nieces.
Sitting near the queen's daughter-in-law were Hilary and Galen Weston, owner of Brown Thomas franchise.
Also present was Ned's business partner Charles Delavigne with his wife Pandora and their daughters, Poppy (who works as a model) and Chloe. Lady Anouska Wienberg and Mark Wienberg, Jane Churchill, Lord and Lady Alexandra, and close business friends of Ned, Norma Smurfitt, John Bradley and David Graham all paid their respects to the Ryan family.
Danny Boy and Galway Bay were sung as Ned was laid to rest in his native home.