Entrepreneur Noel Hanlon, the man behind Hanlon's ambulance factory in Longford town and Manford Clothing in Ballymahon, who died in South Africa on Saturday, is being described and remembered as 'one of the great men of Longford' and 'a larger than life personality'.
Mr Hanlon (78), who was ill for some time, resided in Capetown for a number of years and during the summer, he returned to Longford to visit family and friends.
Cllr Joe Flaherty paid tribute to the deceased. "It is very sad news. Noel was arguably one of Longford's most successful entrepreneurs. His ambulance factory, where his son Paddy now runs a successful 24 hour filling station on the Dublin Road, Longford town, employed up to 300 people during the 1980s. He also launched Manford Clothing Company in Ballymahon making high end coats and commercial uniforms."
Mr Hanlon set up the ambulance manufacturing business in the 1960s and it supplied 60% of the British ambulance market and exported to the Middle East and Far East.
Cllr Flaherty remarked, "They don't make them like Noel anymore. He was rarely without his trademark cigar and he was a larger than life personality."
The late Mr Hanlon was a very close friend of former Taoiseach, the late Albert Reynolds and he was appointed chairman of a number of State companies while declining to accept payment.
He was made chairman of Aer Lingus in 1980. In 1992, he became chairman of the VHI health insurance company. In 1995, he became chairman of Aer Rianta. He also served as chairman of Foir Teoranta, the State rescue company for businesses in trouble.
Cllr Flaherty said Noel was a 'key man' in Albert's election team, while Johnny Fallon recalled the 1992 Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis when Albert was Taoiseach and Noel ensured that the 'roof was raised for The Boss'.
Mr Fallon tweeted that Noel Hanlon was "One of the great men of Longford. A man I loved campaigning with."
Sincere sympathy is extended to the Hanlon family.
Also read: Longford ambulance makes return journey
WATCH: From the RTÉ Archives
‘Evening Extra’ broadcast on March 28, 1988, highlighted the success of Manford Clothing Company in Ballymahon. Noel Hanlon bravely bought out the former Balman Clothes, a subsidiary of Dubtex Clothing Ltd in 1980 and Tom Kelly, Managing Director, explained how Manford Clothing more than tripled its workforce and won millions of pounds worth of export orders
So sorry to hear of the passing of Noel Hanlon today. One of the great men of Longford. I remember him at the ard fheis in '92 when Albert was Taoiseach sitting behind me and making sure we all lifted the roof off with cheers for the boss. A man I loved campaigning with pic.twitter.com/VQlTG14sNV— Johnny Fallon (@jonnyfallon) November 3, 2018
Sad news with the death of Noel Hanlon. One of #Longford's top entrepreneurs. His ambulance factory employed 300 people in the '80s. Also launched Manford making high end coats & uniforms. Close friend & supporter of Albert Reynolds. @Longford_Leader @shannonsidenews pic.twitter.com/H5Uyj8SKjd— Joe Flaherty (@joefla) November 3, 2018