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.
Making a Name for Himself
Brendan studied in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Britain, and in 1938 he returned to manage the catering at 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 he successfully turned it into a profitable operation.
O’Regan in Foynes
In 1943, the government appointed O’Regan as Catering Comptroller at Foynes flying boat base. He was conscious of the 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 create a positive impression of Ireland.
Coinciding with the advent of transatlantic landplanes at the end of WWII in 1945, and the beginning of transatlantic landplanes operations across the river to Rineanna (now Shannon) where Brendan continued as Catering Comptroller.
An Expanded Vision
In 1950, O’Regan traveled to the USA as part of a 16-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 put together a report that would become the blueprint of a vision for Shannon—a vision that was cognitive of social and economic development.
He married Englishwoman Rita Barrow in 1950, and they had two sons, Andrew and Declan, and three daughters, Geraldine, Margaret, and Carmel.
O’Regan went on to be successful in many of his endeavors after leaving Foynes, including developing Shannon International Airport in Rineanna, the successor to Foynes for landplanes. He also set up the world’s first duty-free shop at Shannon, and the Shannon Industrial Free Zone.
Among some of his other accomplishments, he also established the Hotel and Catering College in Shannon and led the restoration of Bunratty Castle and its medieval banquets, Knappogue and Dunguaire, and the Craggaunowen visitor attraction. In 1961, he founded Shannon Development and later, Obair, a community development organization centered in Newmarket-on-Fergus.
Working for Peace and Prosperity
The outbreak in the late 1960s and early ’70s of sectarian, political, and religious conflict in Northern Ireland affected O’Regan deeply, and in 1978 he founded Cooperation North to overcome violence and unemployment through widespread and ongoing economic, cultural, and social cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Brendan died peacefully in February 2008, at the age of 90. He left a permanent mark on the Shannon region, Ireland, and the world.