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Irish whiskey pioneer and FEI stalwart dies at 90

Frank O’Reilly of Ireland (left), who has died aged 90, is pictured here at the 1988 Dublin Horse Show with the then President of Ireland Patrick J. Hillery, and British Chef d’Equipe Ronnie Massarella holding the Aga Khan trophy.

Frank O’Reilly, left, at the 1988 Dublin Horse Show with the then President of Ireland Patrick J. Hillery, and British Chef d’Equipe Ronnie Massarella holding the Aga Khan trophy. © RDS

FEI Honorary Delegate and former Royal Dublin Society President Frank O’Reilly died earlier this month at his home in Rathmore, Co Kildare, Ireland at the age of 90.

Born in Dublin in November 1922, Francis Joseph Charles “Frank” O’Reilly was the only son of a medical doctor. He was educated at St Gerard’s School in Bray, Co Wicklow, Ampleforth College in North Yorkshire and later read engineering at Trinity College Dublin. After World War II, in which he participated as a cadet in the Royal Engineers, he took over the family whiskey distillery.

Frank O'Reilly

Frank O’Reilly

The business developed and in time O’Reilly became chairman of Irish Distillers. In 1982 Frank O’Reilly was appointed as chairman of the Ulster Bank and director of its British parent, the NatWest. He is credited with both reviving Ireland’s whiskey industry and modernising the country’s banking.

In 1941 Frank O’Reilly joined the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), the historic show grounds in the centre of Dublin city where the prestigious Dublin Horse Show is staged annually. In the 1980s, first as chairman of the Executive Committee (1981-87), and then as President (1986-89), he steered the RDS through a difficult patch which threatened its survival.

O’Reilly was instrumental in bringing the 10th FEI World Jumping Championships to Dublin in 1982, the first to include a compulsory horse inspection before the start of the event. It was also thanks to him that anti-doping controls were established at the Dublin Horse Show.

In 1978 Frank O’Reilly became FEI Honorary Delegate after having attended 15 FEI General Assemblies.

In 2002, O’Reilly received a papal honour from Pope John Paul II in recognition of his “outstanding contribution” to the restoration of the Irish College in Paris.

O’Reilly, who died on August 11, was chancellor of Trinity College Dublin from 1985 to 1998. He is survived by his wife Tess and their 10 children.

 

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