"I've been told that this will be the single wisest investment of my life in business"

Category: Press Archive
Posted: 29 November 2020

Belfast Telegraph 31 July 2018 By Margaret Canning


Michael McKeown tells Margaret Canning about his proposed Newry whiskey distillery, selling his claims company and having drive and personality.

After growing up listening to his parents Kitty and Terry assess their drinks business contacts on their "drive" and "personality", it's fair to say Michael McKeown has taken those attributes on board.

At the age of 72, after selling accident management company Crash Services to his son Jonathan, Michael is working on opening a whiskey distillery in Newry as he revives an old brand from the area, Matthew D'Arcy.

The £7.3m Matthew D'Arcy & Company Distillery, Bar, Restaurant and Visitor Centre on Monaghan Street was granted planning permission by Newry and Mourne District Council this month.

Michael is also an avid historian and a trustee of the Cardinal O Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive in Armagh. In his spare time he has amassed papers relating to the old Newry merchant family the Carvills and written his own book on Newry history.

It's all about the energy he has given to his projects, something which was inspired by his upbringing as one of 11 children in Annaghmore.

His parents had set up a drinks supply and off-licence business, Reihill- McKeown. Father Terry had worked as a barman and apple preserver before embarking as a supplier in the drinks trade.

Michael says: "Anything I've ever had has always experienced rapid growth arising from severe application of energy.

"I remember sitting at the table with my father and mother and siblings. The business would be being discussed. What struck me most was that my father and mother would discuss someone else in business or someone who was trading with them in some way.

"They used to say that person 'has great drive'. He has 'great personality'.

"They discussed everyone in terms of degree of drive and personality. I grew up thinking all you had to do to succeed is improve drive and personality."

Michael's story in business suggests his mother and father may have been on to something.

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