Tony Ryan first walked in the door of our shop in 1994. We had just moved from a tiny rented premises to the shop that we currently occupy. As someone who had been involved in cycling since the 1980’s I knew of Tony but I didn’t know him personally. He had a good look around the shop, complimented us on have the bikes set up right and that was that. Since then, up until he became too unwell, he was a regular visitor to the shop, every second Saturday or whenever Peggy would be in Waterford shopping. He became a close friend and a mentor - someone that both David and myself had huge respect for. My friend Barry Meehan has written beautifully of Tony on the Worldwide Cycles Blog (http://worldwidecyclesblog.com/2013/04/05/ryaner/) and everyone will have their own stories of Tony’s many cycling exploits. To me though, he was, simply, a gentleman.
He always dressed himself meticulously and always spoke to everyone with the same respect and good manners. He had a habit of addressing any of our female staff members with ‘Hello Lady’, even if he’d known them for years. When it came to buying a new bike the pattern was always the same - he’d order the bike in November for delivery the first week in March. We’d get specific instructions on the cassette ratio and the stem length and then no fuss at all, as long as we’d have it for the first week in March.
His timekeeping was legendary. I remember being in Carrick years ago for the launch of a cycle to tie in with the visit of the Tour de France to Ireland. Tony got up to talk about the time schedule for the event, how it would start at such a time and that there would be a rest stop in Enniscorthy “for seven minutes”. The room erupted with laughter that came to an abrupt stop when people realised that Tony was deadly serious.
He had great expressions - someone who was sitting too upright on the bike was ‘giraffey’. People who went on and on about equipment, or people who thought they knew everything were ‘Fred’s’. He always had a lovely youthful sparkle in his eyes - what his son Paul referred to at the funeral as ‘The Peter Pan in dad’ - and a constant smile. He loved telling you if you were looking lean or fit and he was always interested in how the business was going and he loved to hear that we were busy. We used to refer to him as our silent partner.
At Christmas he’d arrive with a Christmas Cake from Peggy and a card from both of them. These memories will never leave me.
His last visit to the shop was some months back. Peggy was in town and he walked up to say hello. He sat on the steps in the middle of the shop chatting to David and myself, always deferring to a customer - ‘Look after business first’ he would say. And in my minds eye, that’s where I see him now, sitting on those steps, immaculately dressed, that same lovely sparkle in his eyes. Mr. Meticulous. Rest in Peace Tony.