Duty free’s founding father brings more smiles to the world

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

“I think that duty free shops have a great part to play in the world because they are an extraordinary kind of world link… a universal gesture at airports”– Dr Brendan O’Regan, founder of the airport duty free business

A billion stars go spinning through the night,
Blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
Will be, when all the stars are dead. – From  ‘Buddha In Glory’ by Rainer Maria Rilke (oft quoted by Dr Brendan O’Regan)

The influence of the duty free industry’s founding father, Dr Brendan O’Regan continues to be felt, long after his passing in early 2008.

Dr O’Regan opened the world’s first airport duty free shop in Shannon, Ireland in 1947. Over the following decades of his life he became one of Ireland’s most famous men, championing the role of airports as free trade zones and as crossroads of humanity.

In January I received an unexpected letter from his daughter Carmel. It read:

“Dear Martin,

During the last year of my father’s life you very kindly sent him a sizable donation for his work on ‘Man Must Manage a World Without War’. His health started to deteriorate very shortly after he received this kind donation and so it was never used.

“Having discussed the matter with my brother Andrew, we feel that the best use for these funds is for them to be put towards The Smile Train – a charity which we understand you support strongly.”

The Smile Train (www.SmileTrain.org) is, of course, the world’s leading children’s cleft charity, a cause The Moodie Report, in common with the travel retail industry, has championed regularly over recent years.

[Martin Moodie with Dr O’Regan a year before the latter’s death]

I wrote back to Carmel, giving my approval for the donation to be passed on to this great cause. In turn she responded: “I am so glad that you are happy for your donation to be used in this way. I fully agree with you that Dad would be most pleased to know that these funds were being used in such a worthwhile cause.

“You have probably forgotten the amount but I am sure you will be pleased to know that £3,100 has been donated to the Smile Train today.

“Thank you not just for this but all your support and kindness to Dad during his life. I particularly appreciate my copy of ‘The World Rovers’ [a book, pictured above, published by The Moodie Report in 2007 which traced the influence of the Irish in global duty free –Ed] and frequently refer to it when talking to people, who never knew him, about the wonderful father I was so lucky to have.”

[Dr O’Regan with Breeda McLoughlin]

So there you have it. A man who brought so many smiles to so many people while he was alive has just brought a whole lot more to some of the neediest children on the planet.

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