Brendan McWilliams was born into the world of meteorology. His father, Sean McWilliams, was one of the first group of Irish meteorologists recruited in 1939 for the fledgling Irish Meteorological Service. Brendan was born in Dublin in 1944 but grew up in Waterville, Co Kerry, where his father was head of the nearby Valentia Observatory at Cahirciveen. Brendan embarked on a science course at University College, Cork, emerging with an honours degree in Mathematical Physics, Experimental Physics and Mathematics in 1964.
He chose to follow his father's footsteps by joining the Met Service in 1965. His career began at the Training Centre at Rosslare Harbour. When Brendan moved to the Met Service's Central Analysis and Forecast Office in 1975, he joined the team of meteorologists delivering weather forecasts on RTE television, in the company of well-known names such as Seamus Millar, Michael Gilligan, Paddy MacHugh and Denis Fitzgerald. Brendan became a star performer and it is fair to say that he attracted more female attention than his colleagues. Away from the TV glamour, he worked the office shifts in 44, Upper O'Connell Street, sometimes (unofficially) accompanied on night duty by his Red Setter, Rusty.
In his career in the Meteorological Service, Brendan progressed to a senior management position in 1978 as head of the Dublin Airport Office and later became Met Eireann's head of administration before being appointed assistant director in 1990. Along the way, he equipped himself for a managerial role by successfully undertaking a Master of Business Administration degree at UCD. His career, though distinguished, might only have been known to a limited circle in Ireland were it not for two factors, namely his aptitude for the international aspects of meteorology and his writing.
Brendan earned a reputation as an excellent performer whether representing Ireland or as a popular choice for chairing meetings. His eloquence, his consensus-building skills and his analytical ability were much appreciated by his international colleagues. Among the positions he held was chairman of the EUMETSAT Administration and Finance Group.
In 1998, Brendan took up the fulltime position of director of administration of EUMETSAT (the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) in Darmstadt, Germany where he helped plan the next series of satellite programmes that have recently come on-stream -- like the Metop-A, Europe's first polar-orbiting weather satellite.
However, for very many Irish people, Brendan McWilliams will always be remembered for his Weather Eye column in the Irish Times, as well as for his frequent slots on the Today with Pat Kenny radio programme. His contribution to promoting a greater understanding of meteorology and science in Ireland is immense. His elucidation of the climate change challenge would, on its own, place us in his debt.
For all the depth of his scholarship and erudition, Brendan wore them modestly. He was good company and his humour and delicious sense of irony were often used to good effect.He was devoted to his wife, Anne to his children Stephen and Laurie and to his stepson Christopher. He bore his illness with fortitude and patience. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.