By Eoin Reynolds BORN and reared in Rush Niall Weldon was raised to dizzy heights by Aer Lingus and now at 80 years of age he has written the definitive book on the state airline.
Having spent 41 years at the airline and most of that in senior management positions, nobody is better qualified to tell the story of Aer Lingus.
His book, titled ‘Pioneers in Flight’, consists of profiles of the people who were instrumental in developing the aviation industry in Ireland.
It also provides a comprehensive guide to the birth, growth and development of the aviation industry throughout Ireland over the past 50 years.
Delighted with the end product, Mr Weldon has been heartened by the level of enthusiasm shown for the book by many people.
Former Taoiseach Dr Garrett FitzGerald presided over the launch of the book at the Holiday Inn at Dublin Airport just before Christmas.
Dr FitzGerald worked in Aer Lingus many years ago before embarking on his careers in economics and politics.
He was extremely impressed by the content of the book and the attention to detail that is obvious throughout.
Aer Lingus was set up in 1936 but according to Mr Weldon not much notice was taken of it until after the Second World War.
He joined in 1947 aged 24 and remained with the company until his retirement in 1988.
In 1950 he was given the task of setting up the Airlines Pension Scheme. He later became Services Manager, Airport Manager, Personnel Manager, General Sales Manager and for the last 21 years of his career he was the Company Secretary and General Manager Corporate Affairs.
During his time there he saw the airline grow into one of the most respected airlines in the world. He also claims that Aer Lingus has done more for Irish tourism than Bórd Fáilte.
When the airline opened new routes across Europe and in America, they took it upon themselves to promote Ireland as a tourist destination.
He feels Aer Lingus has not received the credit it should for its achievements in this regard.
Among the characters to have influenced Mr Weldon were Chairman of Aer Lingus from 1954 to 1975 Patrick Lynch and another former Taoiseach Séan Lemass. Lemass was Minister for Industry and Commerce in the 1930s and is acknowledged as having played a major role in founding the state airline.
In spite of opposition from Eamonn DeValera, he made the airline a reality and that legacy is still there today.
Lemass is just one of many people profiled in the book and named ‘Pioneers in Flight’ by Mr Weldon.
Although now retired, Mr Weldon has been busy since he left Aer Lingus in 1988.
He has been a director and chairman of Jury’s Hotel Group, chairman of Beaumont Hospital and a director of a number of companies including RTÉ and Comhairle na nOspidéal. He was also chairman of The Irish Aviation Museum and chairman of the Aer Lingus Young Scientist Exhibition Judging Panel for 21 years.
Finally settling into his retirement, he is writing an autobiographical account of his childhood in Rush which he may seek to get published in the future.
For now his book ‘Pioneers in Flight’ is available in all major book stores and according to the publishers, it is selling well. It is also available on the internet at www.theliffeypress.com.