Thursday 14 December 2017

Reihill's funeral was like his life – as he planned it

Soprano Miriam Murphy sings at the celebration of the life of John Reihill
Soprano Miriam Murphy sings at the celebration of the life of John Reihill
Eamon Delaney

Eamon Delaney

THE RDS Concert Hall was filled to capacity yesterday for a warm and moving funeral service for veteran businessman John Reihill, who passed away recently at his well-known home, Deepwell, overlooking the sea at Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Among the large crowd of mourners were figures from the world of law, business and his other interests.

Among them were hotelier David Doyle, Justice Ronan Keane, former minister Liz O'Donnell, Olivia O'Leary, publisher Kevin Kelly and film maker Julie le Brocquy. Also from the arts were collector Pat Murphy, painter Geraldine Hone, Barbara Dawson, director of the Hugh Lane Gallery, Eoin McGonigal SC, chairman of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Brian Coyle, chairman of Adam's.

Mr Reihill, aged 80, was the owner and chairman of fuel distribution group Tedcastle Holdings, which operated under the Top Oil brand, and had stores and property in Britain and North America.

Tedcastle Properties owns a number of waterfront sites, including property in the Dublin Docklands, Cork Docklands, Fort George development in Derry, and New Rath near Waterford city. The family also has venture capital interests through the Reihill Venture Capital Group.

Originally, a business established by his commercially pioneering father, Tedcastle's became most associated with coal, and especially John's ingenious move to import cheaper coal from then Communist Poland – which earned him the nickname 'the man who came in for the coal'.

Irish consumers were eternally grateful and the Tedcastle's name became a native success story at a time when the country was not necessarily known for its entrepreneurial culture. But John Reihill was more than just a successful businessman.

He was a philanthropist, a gregarious host, a sportsman, a traveller – and, most of all, a family man. All of these qualities were graciously alluded to in a simple but elegant humanist ceremony.

John was known for his planning – and, according to the main celebrant, Brian Whiteside, he and John had had many meetings to prepare for what John called his "eventual arrangements" – most of the meetings being held over fine lunches and memorable dinners.

The planning certainly paid off, with a generous and life-affirming service which included reflections, memories and poems, as well as music from Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and a powerful performance by soprano Miriam Murphy.

Accompanied by a brief slide show, John's son Raymond described his father's life, including his marriage in Cobh to Emer, who later died tragically early leaving him "a widower at the age of 39 with six kids and a very busy business to run". Luckily he met Anne Dillon Malone, who was herself a widow, and had three children and they all came together in a large, happy family. "It was like The Brady Bunch," quipped Raymond.

Anne brought new energy to John and to the family. And not least to the famous family home, with its long sea-view garden, next to Blackrock Park and Dart station. John would later meet Mairead Dunleavy who sadly died in 2008.

Spoken reflections at the ceremony were offered by friends Breffni Byrne, Derry McCarthy and Alan Gray and a poignant poem was recited by John's daughter, Zita. John's other daughter Christina is herself an award-winning poet for her book Soul Burgers.

John is survived by Anne, eight of his children and 25 grandchildren.

Witty to the end, John, a committed humanist, had said that it was "typical that the Pope should decide to give up, just as I'm getting out of here".

Irish Independent

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