Belfast Telegraph

Brian Conlon: Hundreds say farewell to unassuming man behind a world-beating business

The large crowd at St Patrick and St Colman’s Cathedral for the funeral of Brian Conlon yesterday
The large crowd at St Patrick and St Colman’s Cathedral for the funeral of Brian Conlon yesterday
Julie Conlon follows her husband’s coffin
Members of Down GAA at the entrance to the cathedral
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Mourners at the funeral of prominent businessman Brian Conlon heard yesterday that his achievements managed to fill the whole world.

Hundreds of people gathered at St Patrick and St Colman's Cathedral in Newry for Requiem Mass for Mr Conlon, who died on Sunday after a short battle with cancer.

He was the founder and chief executive of technology firm First Derivatives plc.

His staff were among the crowds lining Hill Street, which had been partly closed off as the funeral cortege made its way to the cathedral, passing one of the company's two Newry offices.

Celebrant Fr Desmond Loughran praised Mr Conlon as a man of "immense magnitude", creating a plc with 2,400 employees. Yet Fr Loughran said he remained an "ordinary guy".

"It is true that his skills and abilities, his drive and ambition, his intellect and vision - or as his mum put it so lovingly, his stubbornness - allowed him to rise to the heights of the digital age... and yet his uniqueness kept him under the radar, as he was also quite unassuming, almost understated," he said.

The priest added: "It is never easy to give anyone back to God, let alone anyone we have loved and shared life with. But today we gather today in support of the Conlon family because the timespan of Brian's life has now been completed."

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At the start of Requiem Mass gifts were presented to represent Mr Conlon's interests. There was a newspaper and mobile phone - which Fr Loughran said symbolised Mr Conlon's need to stay abreast of news - a map, as a reminder of his love for travel, a bicycle helmet and a book. A football recalled his love of Gaelic football and in particular Down GAA, with many players and managers at the funeral.

But a family photograph summed up his greatest love.

Fr Loughran said Brian's family of Julie, son Fionn (6) and daughter Danu (4) was his proudest achievement.

"With Julie and his two babbas, he had everything he needed," he said.

Fr Loughran said Brian's mother Josephine had remembered him as a "divil, and lovable rogue" when he was child, but always a generous and selfless older brother to his siblings Kathy, Ciaran and the late Ronan.

Fr Loughran recalled Mr Conlon's occasional absent-mindedness: "Despite his brilliant mind and intellect, he still managed to lose passports by the score, mobile phones and three wedding rings in one week - but Julie loved him."

He concluded: "Now, a whole new world has opened up for Julie, Fionn and Danu. I cannot begin to imagine the pain or fathom the depths of the emptiness and loneliness that all of Brian's family now must endure."

He told them: "You will have to let go of your big handsome pet, who filled not only your world, but the whole world."

Hundreds of workers from First Derivatives' offices in Belfast and in Newry were present, as well as other businesspeople from the city.

And across its 14 other offices in the US, London, Europe, Asia and Australia, a moment's silence was held. But Requiem Mass was overwhelmingly a family occasion, with readings by Mr Conlon's in-laws, nephews and nieces, including a closing Danny Boy sung by his nephew Tiernan. His brother Ciaran read a communion reflection.

Belfast Telegraph