A great sense of loss following the death of John Hanna, Donegal town
There was both profound shock and sadness in Donegal town on Monday morning when the news broke that John Hanna had passed away earlier that morning in the Beacon Hospital.
The 73-year-old businessman was the founder of the world renowned Hanna Hats, an enterprise that grew out of his father, Dave Hanna's tailoring business.
Very much an integral part of the social and commercial fabric of Donegal town, John passed away surrounded by his wife Mary and his family, after a very brief illness.
In days when we hear so much about entrepreneurship, John Hanna was simply an entrepreneur before the word was invented.
He had that unique ability to identify gaps in the market place and the gut instinct drove him. In those earlier days there was not much time for market research, mood boards and networking - this man could see an opportunity before others and simply went out there and made it happen.
John took great pride and inspiration in carrying on the legacy left by his father Dave, a very special man in his own right.
Dave, who hailed from Belfast, was the man who hand made our first suits as young fellas both for communion and confirmation and on top of that taught us all how to swim down on the Holmes Beach.
The family were synonymous with Castle Street which, even to this day, is very much a family occupied street with its own sense of community.
From my very first memories of John growing up he was simply the man that never aged either in mind or looks - he always looked the same and spread the same enthusiasm that he had as a young man.
To us who were younger at the time John was a hero - he was Donegal's answer to Cassius Clay - a competent boxer who entertained many of us in the old picture house.
I have very vague memories of a tournament there where John took on the famous Paddy Doherty from Ballyshannon. The place was packed for what was essentially a “derby” fight -,eventually after a good slugging match, the Ballyshannon man walked away victorious.
Indeed the picture house became a very familiar place for the young Hanna.
Having met his wife Mary Fisher who worked in the Central Hotel, the couple enjoyed their courtship taking in some of the Hollywood blockbusters like Ben Hur from the balcony in the cinema.
John also loved his fishing and along with his brother Eddie and great friend Billy Johnston and the late Anthony O'Malley Daly. spent many great days on the river and out on the lake. Having spent practically all his young life on the edge of the river it is no surprise that he became a man of the water.
In recent years John took a back seat in the business in the day to day operations and handed over the reins to his daughters Amanda Jane and Eleanor who have brought their own skills and passion into firmly establishing Hanna Hats as a global brand.
People may not know that the now famous Hanna Hat is an integral part of the highly successful TV series Peaky Blinders - a move that greatly enhanced the popularity of their caps.
Just over a month ago I was privileged to meet up with John who was entertaining a group of Boston politicians as part of the Donegal Connect initiative. John entertained the Bostonians with great yarns.
I took the opportunity to record that afternoon on video and I will share that with his family when the time is appropriate. Hopefully it will provide the family with some comfort remembering a man who will never be repaced but one who will always be held warmly in the hearts of the people of Donegal.
John was one of the most innovative marketing persons in Donegal marrying his brand to the heritage of the county.
He is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Amanda Jane, Eleanor and Bernadette and son John Patrick. The funeral mass will take place in Killymard on Friday morning at 11 am with burial afterwards in St. Agatha's Cemetery in Clar.