Mr William McConnell's passing a big loss to Jamaica

Friday, September 21, 2018

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The passing of Mr William 'Billy' McConnell has left a void in the business community that will not be easily filled.

Indeed, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, which he served with distinction for many years, captured his contribution very well in its tribute released yesterday, saying that Mr McConnell's “astute advice and quiet brilliance were of immeasurable value” to the organisation and the business community at large.

We recall well the pride we felt when he was invested with the Order of Jamaica, the country's fourth-highest honour, in 2006 for his distinguished leadership in business and the export industry.

It was a well-deserved recognition for a man who basically gave his entire life to the growth and development of this country and whom the prime minister correctly described as a “trailblazer, nation-builder and inspiration to a generation of industry professionals and innovators”.

In fact, the prime minister went even further, recalling that Mr McConnell made great effort to encourage a liberalised free market and championed the removal of foreign exchange controls which “created the environment where private business could prosper, and enhanced the ability of entrepreneurs to develop competitive enterprises”.

In 2014, when Mr McConnell was inducted in the Munro College Old Boys' Association Hall of Fame, we learnt that his years at that school, which began in 1957, were marked more by his interest in sport than academics.

However, after graduating from Munro, he studied at Dean Close School in the United Kingdom, after which he attended McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he studied accounting. His accounting career, we also learnt, began at Price Waterhouse in Montreal before he joined Touché Ross Thorburn in Kingston, Jamaica.

It was obvious, from early, that Mr McConnell had the type of personality that could put people around him at ease quickly. But he also possessed a keen nose for business; therefore, it was not surprising when he started rising through the ranks, particularly at J Wray & Nephew, where he started as financial accountant in 1973 and by 1977 was appointed managing director of the group of companies.

That, no doubt, was a vote of confidence in his competence, as well as the integrity he displayed on the job.

The adage “The reward for good work is more work” was borne out in the fact that Mr McConnell was sought out to serve on a number of boards in both the private and public sectors. Among them Globe Insurance Company of the West Indies, Scotia Investment Jamaica Limited, Scotia Group Jamaica Limited, Sugar Manufacturing Corporation of Jamaica, Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, Petrojam, Wray & Nephew, University Hospital of the West Indies, Lascelles DeMercado & Co Ltd, and the Jamaica Observer.

He also served as a non-executive director of Dolphin Cove, director of Carreras Limited and, up until recently, was a director of Spirits Pool Association of Jamaica

It was not surprising, therefore, that in 2005 he was inducted into the Private Sector Hall of Fame.

Throughout his stellar career, though, Mr McConnell never lost focus from his responsibility to his family. Neither did he abandon his humility and sense of appreciation for the welfare of his fellow human beings.

He was, indeed, a special individual. His passing is a great loss to Jamaica. Our condolence to his family, friends and associates.

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