Wicklow People

| 12°C Dublin

Tim was a man of huge achievement


Tim Philips boarding a relief flight to Cambodia he helped organise with GOAL in 1979 following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

Tim Philips boarding a relief flight to Cambodia he helped organise with GOAL in 1979 following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

Tim Philips boarding a relief flight to Cambodia he helped organise with GOAL in 1979 following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge.

TIM PHILIPS, who died recently at the age of 71, was for many years the driving force behind Ballyfree Farms, the poultry agribusiness based in Glenealy. Tim spearheaded the early development of the enterprise with his father, David, and was subsequently its managing director.

Tim brought to the undertaking a high level of energy and innovation, which invariably left his committed work force and his competitors gasping in his wake. Vision, integrity and passion were his hallmarks. He is survived by his wife, Susan, for many years a member of Wicklow County Council as an independent.

Timothy David Philips was born in London on 10 April, 1938. His father, Osborne David Philips, an American entrepreneur, had developed the ziplock, an innovative system for sealing plastic, still in use today. The sale of that patent enabled Philips senior to make a permanent move to Ireland and to purchase Ballyfree House in Glenealy, with some land attaching, in the early 1950s. So as a boy Tim came to live in this part of Wicklow to which he formed a deep attachment.

Tim was educated at Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, England. From there he secured a place at Cambridge University. After consultation with his father, who viewed formal education with some disdain, Tim chose instead to pursue a career in insurance.

He joined Lloyds of London after completing a short service commission in the Royal Dragoon Guards, an experience which Tim later was to say honed his talents for organisation. At the age of 23 he married Susan Aikman, a partnership of love that was to last 48 years until his death.

But Tim and Susan pined after life in Glenealy. Within two years he had abandoned the city life and committed himself to the development of the family business. The Philips family, with their renowned Ballyfree Browns brand, became the dominant supplier of fresh eggs to the Dublin market. Eggs that had previously been sold loose were for the first time offered in pre-packs. By the late sixties there were 120,000 laying hens in the Glenealy valley.

Not one to stand still, Tim diversified the poultry operation into the production and processing of turkeys and the manufacture of a range of convenience food products. At its height this enterprise could boast many of the leading retailers in Britain as its customers. In the early 1980s, when Ireland was experiencing severe recession, Tim and his company had 130 people on the payroll. In 1985, the Ballyfree business was sold and later taken over by the Kerry Group. Tim went on to pursue a vibrant career as an agribusiness consultant, advising companies in both Ireland and further afield whilst Susan embarked on a career as an Independent county councillor.

Tim had many interests and skills that went beyond the world of business. He was a passionate aviator who kept his own plane, much used for his commercial activities. The 1960s saw the staging of several international air rallies at Ballyfree. These events attracted huge crowds. Activities included aerobatic demonstrations, massed parachute jumps, a demonstration by lady pilots and even a "woman on the wing".

In 1969, Tim and his co-pilot, Vyrell Mitchell, raced their Piper Twin Comanche, named Ballyfree Bird, in the England to Australia Air Race They finished fourth out of seventy-five starters. Two years later the same combination competed in the London to Victoria (Canada) Air Race. They finished in second place. Inspired publicity was obtained for sponsors Bord Bainne and Kerrrygold, as well as for Ballyfree. When Tim landed the Comanche back on the Glenealy air strip, he was presented with a gift of Waterford glass by local residents, a gesture that he appreciated enormously.

A feature of Tim was his sense of compassion. In 1979 the inhabitants of Cambodia and of Phnom Penh in particular, were in dire need of assistance following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime. Tim, together with John O'Shea of Goal, inveigled Aer Lingus into putting a fully crewed transport plane at their disposal. A combination of pressure and charm yielded the required provisions. The two men were on board as the plane flew into the city at low altitude and under the cover of darkness to best avoid the attentions of hostile fire. The cargo was delivered.

A later outlet for Tim's reserves of energy was equestrian sport. He had shown little interest in horses when his sisters, Virginia and Prunella, had competed with success in the 1960s. Where his siblings had failed to arouse an interest, his daughters succeeded in spades. He ran the European Three Day Eventing and Endurance Championships at Punchestown in 2003, an exercise that called on all his considerable skills of management and organisation. This successful venture led to his establishing the annual Ballinacoola Horse Trials on his farm in Glenealy. A permanent feature now at Ballinacoola is the Equestrian Park, a training complex for riders and their horses comprising a range of purpose built cross country fences. This venture is now under the management of Tim's daughter, Georgina, and her husband, Richard Sheane.

The discovery in mid-life of some Jewish origins led Tim on a journey of faith culminating in him placing complete trust in Jesus Christ. He developed a passion to communicate this message of hope to others, particularly young people. For the last two years he organised a Christian Youth Festival (known as M.A.D. or Make a Difference) on the lands below his house. Renowned Christian bands from abroad joined Irish performers at this event. In the nearby village of Redcross Tim was influential in the development of a modern vibrant church that welcomes Christians of all denominations.

During his illness Tim was buoyed up by news of the appointment of his son, Dalton, to the position of chief executive of one of the leading retailers in the United Kingdom.

Tim's untimely death is felt keenly by his family, including an ever increasing number of grandchildren, and his many friends. His wife, Susan, his daughters, Fiona, Scarlett, Georgina and Melanie and his son, Dalton, can be justifiably proud.