Dr. Brendan O’Regan
Dr. Brendan O’Regan was born 15 May, 1917, in Sixmilebridge, County Clare. The son of James O’Regan and Nora Ryan, he attended Sixmilebridge National School before going on to Blackrock College for his secondary education.
Brendan studied in Germany, France, Switzerland and Britain and in 1938 returned to manage another one of his father’s hotels. Here, senior civil servants were regular guests, and the caterer’s energy and verve soon caught their attention. He was asked to manage the St. Stephen’s Green Club in Dublin, which had been ailing for some time, and successfully turned it into a profitable operation.
In 1943, the Government appointed O’Regan as Catering Comptroller at Foynes flying boat base. O’Regan was conscious of the type of image that the Irish should present to foreign visitors so he redecorated the restaurant to give it a strong Irish character, and sought well-educated people as restaurant staff in order to give a positive impression of Ireland.
With the advent of transatlantic land planes at the end of the war in 1945, he was transferred to the airbase at Rineanna (now Shannon) where he continued as Catering Comptroller.
In 1950, O’Regan travelled to the USA as part of a sixteen-man team under the Marshall Aid plan. The visit had a major impact on him, and during his return journey to Ireland by cruise liner he helped to put together a report that would become the blueprint of a vision for Shannon–a vision that was cognitive of social and economic development.
In 1950 he married Englishwoman Rita Barrow and they had two sons, Andrew and Declan, and three daughters, Geraldine, Margaret and Carmel.
Brendan went on to be successful in many of his endeavours after leaving Foynes, including developing Shannon International Airport in Rineanna–the successor to Foynes for land planes–and also the setting up of the World’s first Duty Free shop at Shannon and the extension of it in the form of the Shannon Industrial Free Zone.
He established the Hotel and Catering College also in Shannon, lead the restoration of Bunratty Castle and its medieval banquets, Knappogue and Dunguaire as similar attractions and the Craggaunowen visitor attraction. In 1961, he founded Shannon Development and later, Obair, a community development organisation centred in Newmarket-on-Fergus.
The outbreak in the late 1960s and the early 1970s of sectarian, political and religious conflict in Northern Ireland impacted on Brendan O’Regan and in 1978, O’Regan founded Co-operation North to overcome violence and unemployment through widespread and ongoing economic, cultural and social co-operation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Brendan died peacefully, February 2008, having left a permanent mark on the Shannon region, Ireland and the world.