Remembering Tony O’Reilly

The rest is history

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Some opinion pieces by Fintan O’Toole I agree with, but I also admit, more often than not, I tend to differ with many of Fintan’s views and his most recent was certainly one of them (“Tony O’Reilly’s secret past shaped his need to play the life of an Ascendancy landlord”, Opinion & Analysis, May 20th). What I also know is that my late father, Garret, greatly liked Fintan personally and admired his intellect hugely.

My father also felt precisely the same about Tony O’Reilly and, moreover, he had great sympathy for the business challenges that Tony faced in the autumn of his life.

Tony O’Reilly was just 26 when he took over Bord Bainne. He recruited my father, then aged 36, to carry out the market research on the potential launch of an Irish branded butter. As a result of this research, O’Reilly decided to launch this new butter, not in Ireland but in Britain, aimed at the Irish emigrant market.

The rest is history.


It was the Lions tour of New Zealand in 1959 that, in many ways, started the ball rolling in terms of the potential of an Irish branded butter, as on this tour the team, including O’Reilly, visited a state of the art butter factory (a visit that is recorded on the Pathé film of the tour). Three years later in 1962, O’Reilly persuaded two executives from the New Zealand Dairy Board to visit Ireland to advise on the launch of this new Irish branded butter.

They came in August of that year and O’Reilly brought the two executives to Bettystown, where our family was on holiday, to meet my father. I remember the visit well as the men were nice and they walked the beach with a five-year-old me picking shells for me along the way.

There were many people involved in the project to modernise Ireland and Tony O’Reilly was certainly one of them. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6.