The unexpected death of former Ford Ireland chairman and managing director Eddie Nolan last weekend has sent shockwaves through the motor industry all over Ireland.
One of the most widely known personalities in the motor trade over a period spanning nearly 50 years, Eddie was not only a hugely respected businessman, but well loved as a witty and charming character with a deep knowledge of all aspects of the motor business and much more besides.
Eddie was a company man in the best possible way. He worked with Ford all his life and was imbued with the ethos of the blue oval in all its many and varied endeavours.
Throughout his working life he experienced every facet of Ford’s activities and this experience was put to excellent use when he assumed control of the Irish arm of its operations back in 1987.
He was fiercely proud of Ireland’s unique place in the lore of the Ford Corporate structure and during his tenure as chairman and managing director of Henry Ford and Sons Ireland Ltd he worked hard to ensure that this country’s singular relationship with the Ford family was never forgotten.
Eddie was also hugely proud of the unique relationship between Ford and the people of Ireland and worked tirelessly across the length and breadth of the country to keep the Ford brand at the top of the pile here.
And although faced with growing competition from Japan and Europe, over the years he kept Ford in the vanguard of the motor industry in Ireland, consistently topping the sales charts even in times when the economy was in poor shape.
A tough man to his core, he was nevertheless a very fair man once he himself and his company were treated fairly too. As a motoring correspondent I sometimes held views with which Eddie fundamentally disagreed, but honestly expressed criticism never found fault with him.
However, if he felt Ford had been unfairly represented, then he would fight his corner with extraordinary vigour.
Even as a powerful businessman, Eddie had a real common touch with people, whatever walk of life they came from. He also had a roguish mien, a ready laugh, and a character’s delight in all those simple things which make the human condition a terribly complex thing.
Eddie Nolan was a fine gentleman and news of his untimely death was a terrible shock to all who knew him. My deepest sympathies go to his devoted wife Cintra and his four children Helen, Michael, John, and Peter.
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