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Newry business came to a standstill today at 12.30pm to remember one of their own.

Brian Conlon had started his business with a small loan from another organisation at the heart of the community, Newry Credit Union and from small beginnings working in a spare bedroom at home he somehow managed to build a worldwide enterprise that's listed on the London Stock Exchange and valued at around £1 Billion. More importantly though he kept it all grounded in Newry, with the estimated 2400 staff all undergoing training while spending their money locally contributing in no small way to the vibrance of our city.

Mr Conlon passed away after contracting cancer earlier this year.

Brian Conlon's remains are carried into Newry Cathedral. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Brian Conlon's remains are carried into Newry Cathedral. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The funeral cortege had made it's way from his home in Carlingford earlier but before it turned into Hill Street it fittingly made it's way down Canal Quay, past the First Derivative worldwide headquarters, a mega business that's proud to be from Newry, and a business that boosted immensely the Canal Street and Sugar Island area, a part of Newry which used to be one of the most deprived and run down areas of the city. But No More!

Workers from the company's headquarters lined along the quay outside while the cortege paused and passed. On Hill Street the city's business population lined the street and followed the procession down to Newry Cathedral for the Funeral Mass at 1pm. Many many thousands attended, packing the cathedral to capacity and beyond.

In his homily Acting Administrator of Newry Cathedral Parish, Fr. Desmond Loughran spoke of Mr Conlon's early days from the Abbey Grammar School to Queens, KPMG and then Morgan Stanley in London and New York.

Explaining how it began Fr Loughran said "In the mid 1990's there was no similar work at home in Ireland, so Brian always thinking of his home town set up First Derivatives from a spare bedroom in the family home with a seed capital of just £5000. Brian was very proud to acknowledge that it was Newry Credit Union that gave him the loan to start his business.The importance of the decision to base his headquarters in Newry was huge as in 1980 Newry suffered from 27% unemployment."

Fr Loughran continued "One of the greatest compliments any Irish person can receive is that 'He never forgot his roots' Over the years Brian put this city of his roots on the global map. A man who shied away from publicity, he quietly became one of Ireland's most successful businessmen, turning his company into a 1 Billion pound success story with operational bases in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia which now employs over 2400 employees worldwide.

A packed Hill Street in Newry for the funeral of Brian Conlon. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
A packed Hill Street in Newry for the funeral of Brian Conlon. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"He leaves a huge economic legacy and has given hundreds and hundreds of young students a first step on the ladder of their careers with fantastic life and job opportunities worldwide.

A quote from the First Derivatives website sums up the character and value of Brian Conlon 'We know that ensuring our people are well motivated, well rewarded and have the opportunity to develop their true potential is critical to meeting our varied client needs and our continued commercial success." Hard work deserves to be rewarded."

Acting Administrator Fr Desmond Loughran blesses the remains as they enter Newry Cathedral. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Acting Administrator Fr Desmond Loughran blesses the remains as they enter Newry Cathedral. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The Guards of Honour for the First Derivatives founder Brian Conlon. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The Guards of Honour for the First Derivatives founder Brian Conlon. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

The Newry Cathedral Administrator added "With all that I've heard about Brian's achievements, I am amazed that he still was in many many ways an ordinary guy. It is true that his skills and abilities, his drive and ambition, his intellect and his vision ... or as his mum put it so lovingly, his stubbornness allowed him to rise to the heights of the digital age with his ideas and company, whose success I can't begin to fathom.

"And yet his uniqueness kept him under the radar so to speak as he was also quite un-assuming almost understated. As a child he was as his mum said, 'a divil, a lovable rogue' and I think to myself, well what son isn't! I remember being called those two words myself. Growing up he was a typical big brother, teasing, arguing with his siblings but he was always a selfless generous guy, giving and sharing were just part and parcel of who he was and what he did."

Local political figures at the funeral.
Local political figures at the funeral.

A lighter moment highlighted another aspect of Brian as Fr Loughran quipped "Despite that brilliant mind and intellect, he still managed to lose passports by the score, mobile phones and believe it or not three wedding rings in a week and Julie still loved him."

As the remains of Mr Conlon left Newry Cathedral for burial at Monkshill Cemetery a spontaneous round of applause broke out from the mourners.

A fitting show of solidarity and respect from the greater Newry family and their guests, directed towards the mourning family and friends of Brian Conlon, a true Newry great.

The funeral procession makes it's way towards Monkshill Cemetery. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
The funeral procession makes it's way towards Monkshill Cemetery. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Carrying the remains of Brian Conlon past his First Derivatives office in Hill Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Carrying the remains of Brian Conlon past his First Derivatives office in Hill Street, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
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