Death in Holland of one of Pretty Polly's founding executives

The late Ralph de Zaayer
The late Ralph de Zaayer

Brendan McCarthy

THE death has occurred of one of Killarney's pioneering industrialists, former Managing Director of Pretty Polly, Ralph de Zaayer.

Mr de Zaayer (pictured), who was aged 89, passed away after a short illness in the company of his family in Holland at the beginning of this month.

Ralph was one of the founding executives of Killarney Hosiery (Pretty Polly) in 1966 when the sod was turned on the green-field site at Upper Park Road, and ironically, his death came in the same month in which a "Gathering" of former Pretty Polly employees is planned.

Mr de Zaayer began as Production Manager of Pretty Polly in 1966, and within 12 years had reached position of Managing Director. In 1986 after 20 years in Killarney, he retired and returned to his homeland in Holland.

Jerry O'Grady, former Plant Manager in Pretty Polly, paid tribute to Mr de Zaayer, describing him as one the great man managers of his time.

"Ralph's ability to communicate with and motivate staff at all levels, was second to none," said Jerry. "Within the first 10 years of the company's life, his negotiating skills were tested on very many occasions, but despite some tough and uncompromising industrial relations battles, he was respected and admired.

"His advice was frequently sought by other employers around the country and in his later years he served on a number of IBEC National Committees. His skills in all other parts of industrial management were equally high. Dealing fairly but firmly with suppliers was a cornerstone of his approach to managing the supply chain. He believed very much in forging relationships with suppliers, many of whom became lifelong friends."

Jerry said Mr de Zaayer was a "superb mentor" for young managers and taught the key skills of operations management.

"He did this through encouraging and facilitating academic learning in institutions like the Irish Management Institute but, he always reinforced this learning by giving us a 'hands on' opportunity of managing projects," he said.

Jerry said Mr de Zaayer could never quite get his head around the Irish pre-occupation with name abbreviations.

"Even though the official company name was Killarney Hosiery, because it was owned by the international brand Pretty Polly, it became known locally as 'The Polly'. Some years later, his confusion was further deepened when the company's official name changed to Pretty Polly (Ireland), by which time it was being locally identified as 'The Hosiery'!" he explained.

Ralph de Zaayer is survived by his wife Elly, daughters Karin, Paulien, Linda and their families.