Back where it all began and embracing the spirit of west Ireland

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Shannon Airport, County Clare. Where it all began for our industry way back in 1947 when Aer Rianta (the name means airways in the Irish language)  opened the world’s first duty free shop. That shop – and the entire global business sector it spawned – was inspired by one man, Dr Brendan O’Regan, a visionary, statesman, entrepreneur and ultimately man of peace in Ireland.

Martin Moodie with Dr Brendan O’Regan in 2005

Dr O’Regan, whom I was blessed to get to know well, passed in 2008 at the age of 90. In 2018 Shannon Airport marked what would have been his 100th birthday with the unveiling of a bronze bust sculpture cast in his likeness.

Last week, en route back to Heathrow after the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, I had the chance to see this splendid work for the first time and to silently honour a man for whom I had so much respect. It was good to see Shannon Airport placing so much emphasis on its heritage and to see the excellent biography, ‘Brendan O’Regan – Irish Innovator, Visionary & Peacemaker’ , written by Brian O’Connell with Cian O’Carroll, prominently displayed in the store.

Remembering Dr ORegan with Jonathan Holland, owner of Singaporean travel retail specialist Jonathan Holland & Associates
Good to see Shannon Airport celebrating the life and achievements of our industry founder (above) but not so good to see the display partly covered up with a biscuits offering (below)

I suspect that after the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open a certain Colm McLoughlin, who began his duty free career 50 years ago at Shannon Airport in 1969 may have stopped too to pay his respects to Dr O’Regan. One small west coast Irish airport has been the starting point for two of the most influential figures in the history of the duty free industry. Now, that really does deserve celebration.

Anyone who is involved in duty free anywhere in the world should understand this: that Dr Brendan O’Regan gave breath not just to an industry but to a concept. His great achievement was that, at the very essence, he took commerce and made it a force for good – so it was no longer just commerce. That is his outstanding heritage.

He transcended business. Not many people do that. And not many ideas do that. Not many people bequeath great notions. He has.

He once said: “I will fight to the last breath helping to make peace in my country”. And he did. – From The Moodie Blog, February 2008


How can you stop at Shannon Airport and not indulge in an Irish Coffee? The drink was invented in 1943 by Joe Sheridan, a chef and bartender who worked at the Flying Boat terminal in nearby Foynes, County Limerick. That year a Pan Am flying boat flight to New York turned back to Foynes due to inclement weather. Sheridan put some Irish whiskey into the bitterly cold passengers’ coffees and topped it with pouring cream. Irish Coffee was born.

Dr O’Regan is not West Ireland’s only son who is honoured at Shannon Airport. This magnificent six-meter sculpture immortalises one of Ireland’s and the world’s greatest rugby players, Munster man Paul O’Connell.
Fanatical English and All Blacks supporters, respectively, they may be, but both Jonathan Holland and Martin Moodie know exactly what a great player Paul O’Connell was
Now, this is just the thing for The Trinity Forum in Doha later this year…
… but with an English rugby (and cricket) supporter in sight, it was time to swap into black. Surely a portent of a Black Caps triumph this coming weekend at Lord’s?
And there’s that name again. Nice touch.
A beautiful display from Max Benjamin. The firm is owned and run by siblings Orla (wife of industry stalwart Barry Geoghegan), Mark & David Van den Bergh in Enniskerry, County Wicklow. The brand is named after Orla’s twin boys, Max and Ben.

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