Prof Seamus Timoney

An inspiration for Timoney Leadership Institute

"An academic, an industrialist, an innovator, a designer, an internationalist, a manager, a teacher, eldest of a family of 10, he was broad, he was focused, he was tolerant, he was intolerant, he knew research processes, he knew technological processes, he knew business processes – he was a true leader."  Dr Gerry Byrne, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Head of Department at UCD.

Seamus Timoney was a true leader, entrepreneur and an outstanding academic of international repute whose patents testify to his innovative talents. He was a natural leader who made a difference in Ireland and beyond in challenging times and is an inspiration for the kind of leadership the Timoney Leadership Institute promotes.

He graduated from UCD in mechanical engineering in 1949 and joined their staff in 1954, becoming Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 1965 and also Head of Department in 1981. He obtained his PhD in 1961 for an original design for a variable-compression, multi-fuel engine. He was awarded a DSc in 1987 and became an international expert in the use of ceramics in engines.

In 1987 Seamus was the first Irishman to be elected a foreign member of the Fellowship of Engineering in Britain, and was the second person to win the “Irish Scientist of the Year” award.

In 1971 he set up an engine research facility in Dublin with his brother which grew into the Timoney Technology Group of companies of which he was chairman until he became ill in 1990. Though Ireland had no tradition, market or infrastructure for the design and manufacture of special purpose vehicles (fire crash tenders, armoured personnel carriers, forestry vehicles, airport rescue vehicles), they won orders and contracts and sold licences to manufacture in Europe, the US and the Far East, simply because of the quality of their vehicles.

In 1981, seeing the importance of technology transfer, he devised what was then a radical project. Working with the Tanzanian government of President Julius Nyerere, he brought engineers and technicians from Tanzania to Ireland and taught them how to design and build a simple, rugged and economical transport vehicle suited to the challenging terrain of Tanzania. On his death, the Tanzanian Prime Minister referred to him as “one of the best and most sincere friends of Tanzania”.

He was a profoundly spiritual man, who saw his professional work as part of his Christian calling: as service to God and to others in society. For 40 years he was involved in the development in Ireland of Opus Dei, a personal prelature of the Catholic Church founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá.

Dr Gerry Byrne, Professor of Mechanical Engineering in UCD, delivered a talk on Seamus Timoney at the inaugural Timoney Leadership Institute Masterclass in the Westin Hotel, Dublin, on 4 December 2012 which you can read here.

Eanna Timoney gave a talk about his older brother Seamus at an alumni seminar in the K Club, Straffan, Co. Kildare on 20 March 2018 which you can read here.

You can also read a short piece on the UCD website here