'I hope his country realises how much he did for it' - Penneys founder Arthur Ryan passes by store for final time
Legendary retail tycoon Arthur Ryan, creator of the Penneys/Primark clothing chain “loved his country and I hope his country realises how much he did for it”, said the CEO of Associated British Foods George Weston at his funeral in Dublin yesterday.
He said the retailer who died on Monday last was a man of contradictions, “He was fascinating to be with – he was shy but could dominate a room, ne didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he helped those in need and he was a hard man but a big softie”, said Mr. Weston in his eulogy at the beginning of the funeral mass in The Church of The Sacred Heart, Donnybrook.
He said Mr. Ryan was a great business builder. “We supported you because you were the greatest business leader we ever knew” he said
Staff formed a guard of honour at Penneys/Primark Mary Street headquarters in central Dublin before the cortege left for the church, where mourners were led by Alma Carroll, the one-time Irish Eurovision singer and his four surviving children from his two marriages.
The funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr. Brian D’Arcy and Fr. Lorcan O’Brien Parish Priest of Donnybrook.
The attendance included, Galen Weston and his wife the former Irish model Hillary Frayne, Guy Weston, Paul Kelly former chairman of Selfridges, businessmen Pascal Taggart, Kevin Kelly, Don Tidey, former boss of Tesco Ireland, singer Adele King, John Bruton and his wife Fionnuala and musician Paddy Cole.
The funeral mass began with Red Hurley singing “Bring Him Home”.
The tycoon, who lived in Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4, died last Monday at the age of 83.
He opened the first retail shop under the Penneys brand name in Mary Street, Dublin in 1969.
Portrayed as the “reclusive,” he simply stayed out of the limelight, so that he could lead a normal life.
Arthur St. John Ryan was born in 1935 and educated at Synge Street CBS in Dublin. He emigrated to England where he worked for a number of years before joining Ben Dunne Snr in the newly opened Cornelscourt shopping centre in south Dublin.
Penneys, launched in Mary Street in 1962 is known as Primark outside Ireland and has over 368 stores in 12 countries and is owned by Canadian based Associated British Foods.
Arthur Ryan stepped down as Chief Executive in 2009 but was chairman of the retail conglomerate until his death.
His world was plunged into tragedy with the drowning of his youngest son Barry (51), Barry Davis Ryan (20) his grandson and Niamh O’Connor (20), Barry Jnr’s girlfriend, who were swept off rocks while fishing near Baltimore, Co. Cork in 2015.
Although frail in recent times he was still a regular caller to the company headquarters in Mary Street and took a keen interest in the business prior to his death.
He is survived by his wife Alma, daughters Jessica and Alison and sons Colin and Arthur.