Airline executive of many achievements never forgot roots

Brendan Donohoe - Born: January 8th, 1944; Died: October 29th, 2013

Sat, Nov 30, 2013, 13:08

Dublin-born Brendan Donohoe spent almost his entire working life in airline administration, at home and abroad. The eldest of Bridget and Mattie Donohoe’s five children, he was educated at O’Connell Schools and entered the Aer Lingus finance division in 1962, quickly rising through the ranks to become head of its capital unit.

Graduating from Trinity College Dublin with a BSc degree in 1975, he joined a band of Aer Lingus personnel contracted to administering Zambia Airways in Lusaka.

Following a three-year spell, he returned to Dublin and Aer Lingus where he was involved in computerising the accounting systems.

A short-term posting to Canadian Pacific Airlines in Vancouver led to stints in Antigua and Guyana. Following another period in Dublin, he became finance director of Kenya Airways in Nairobi. He opted for early retirement from Aer Lingus in 1993.

Remaining in Kenya, Donohoe became general manager and part owner of Air East Africa – a successful cargo operation serving the general eastern and central African regions.

Back in Dublin, he joined Air Consult International (ACI) – a company established by former Aer Lingus executives, headed by the enterprising Seán Braiden. This took him on a series of EU-sponsored assignments throughout eastern Europe and also to Africa. Between 1997 and 1999 Donohoe served as chief executive officer of Air Zimbabwe before his final overseas posting, through ACI with support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as chief executive of Mongolian Airlines in Ulanbator.

With the winding up of ACI in 2006, Donohoe administered his son’s software development businesses and worked part time with the Irish crafts firm of JC Walsh & Sons.

Brendan Donohoe’s abiding interest in sport stemmed from his playing on O’Connell’s junior and senior football and hurling teams. Leaving school, his sporting activities continued through Club Scoil Uí Chonaill. He also played in Croke Park on the Dublin football and hurling teams in 1968 and 1971 respectively.

An exceptional family man, he married Finola Connolly, who was his tireless consort throughout their somewhat nomadic lifestyle. He had three children, Elaine, Barbara and Paul.

The Donohoe homes abroad quickly became centres of expatriate gatherings with their residence in Lusaka a relaxing rendezvous for Irish Christian Brothers working in remote areas while their house in Nairobi was a similar missionary haven. Having a lasting regard for the Brothers, Donohoe held his alma mater in unfailing esteem.

An active trade unionist in his Aer Lingus days, Donohoe continued this concern as committee member, treasurer and chairman of the Retired Aviation Staff Association. But his caring nature also touched his co-workers abroad especially those whose circumstances were less fortunate than his own.

Gentle and sensitive, Donohoe was a man of humility who, despite considerable achievements in many endeavours, never forgot his roots. A man of deep Catholic faith, he bore debilitating illness with uncomplaining forbearance.