William “Billy” O’Kane, 84, son of the founder of O’Kane Poultry, which later became Moy Park, died August 12, 2021.
O’Kane was born January 20, 1937, in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. He attended Ballymena Academy before he began working for the family business, and went on to study economics at Queen’s University Belfast. He graduated with honors in 1959 and completed an apprenticeship with a large poultry firm before returning to the family business.
He married Mary Logan in 1961 and they had six children.
O’Kane was a founding member of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association and served as Northern Ireland’s representative on Bord Bia, the Irish food board. In 1989, he was granted an Order of the British Empire (OBE) award for his services to the food industry. He retired from the business in 2010. Throughout his career, he served on many boards, including the Belfast Harbour Commissioners, the Pig Marketing Board and the Agricultural Trust. He was also a director on the board of Ulster Bank.
When O’Kane joined O’Kane Poultry with his brother, they began importing modern broilers from the U.S. In the 1970s, O’Kane Poultry was the first poultry processor to import Dutch machinery to fully mechanize the production line.
The company started by supplying small grocery stores and grew to supply large supermarket chains in Ireland and the U.K. In the 1980s, O’Kane Poultry bought Castlemahon Chickens, and later sold it in the 2000s. The O’Kane company also established a large distribution hub. The business was purchased by Moy Park in 2010.
O’Kane is survived by his wife; five children, Billy, Terence, Moira, Alison and John; 15 grandchildren and three siblings.
He was preceded in death by one son, Michael.
Funeral services were held August 15, with a service at All Saints Parish Church and burial at Ballymena Cemetery.