Walsh confidently recalls tale of his 'cocky' youth


WILLIE WALSH is always good value as a speaker and so it proved at the RDS yesterday, where he picked up the society’s gold medal for industry and commerce in recognition of his achievements in the aviation sector.

Coincidentally, it was 33 years to the day since he had started as a trainee pilot with Aer Lingus.

Walsh recounted how a postal strike in 1979, his Leaving Cert year, had actually helped him secure the role.

“They put notices in the paper telling people just to turn up on the day and one of the lads thought it would be a good way to get a day off school. So off we went to Liberty Hall.”

It was around April time and so Walsh landed the role, before he’d even sat his Leaving Cert.

Years later, as chief executive, he decided to look up his file.

“One guy was still employed by the airline,” Walsh said.

The pair hadn’t quite hit if off during the interview process all those years ago.

“Four people interviewed me. Three said ‘very confident young man for his age’ and this guy just put down, ‘cocky little bastard’.

“The lesson I learned from that is that there’s a very fine line between cocky and confident.”

Walsh, long renowned for his baby-faced features, also recounted a recent meeting with American comedian Ruby Wax in relation to a charity where British Airways is involved.

“She said to me, ‘Wow, you look much younger in real life that on television. What age are you?’ I told her I was 50 to which she replied: ‘In that case, you look shite’.”

At least Walsh saw the funny side of it.