By Emma Hickey
Well-known local businessman and founder of Tayto Park, Ray Coyle, passed away at the age of 70 earlier this month.
Mr Coyle’s cause of death has not been revealed, but his family have stated that he died “peacefully with his family” while in hospital.
He is remembered by his wife Rosamond, his daughter Natalya, an Olympian, and his son Charles, who is the general manager at Tayto Park.
In the weeks following his death, condolences have been pouring in for Mr Coyle, who has been commended for his dedication to his home county, Meath. He has continuously supported the local community, as well as providing over 200 people full time employment at his theme park, Tayto Park.
Tayto Park tweeted their sympathies: “This week we said goodbye to our founder Raymond Coyle. A true visionary who was larger than life. Our deepest sympathy to Ros, Charles, Natalya, Raymond’s extended family and many friends.”
“Ray dreamt of something never before imagined, a theme park in the middle of Meath. His hard work, ambition and above all else, his sense of fun and spirit was a marvel to us all,” the park added in a Facebook post. “Although this is a sad time, we are comforted by his memory which will live on for years to come.”
Meath GAA also offered their condolences, tweeting, “We extend our condolences to the family of Raymond Coyle. Raymond was a long-term supporter of Meath GAA and sponsored the Meath Senior Football team with @taytopark for several years.”
Raymond Coyle was the recipient of numerous awards to celebrate his success as a businessman and entrepreneur, but also for his good work in the local community. He won the industry category at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in 2011, as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Meath Business and Tourism Awards in 2021.
Mr Coyle began his life as a farmer in Curragha, selling potatoes, before he was met with financial difficulties and was forced to raffle off his farm in a show of entrepreneurism that he would carry on until his death. With each ticket costing £300, he raised over a million euro in this venture. After paying off the banks, he went on to set up Largo Foods, known today as Tayto Snacks.
Mr Coyle acquired the Tayto brand in 2006, which had been around since 1954. Tayto invented the first flavoured crisp production process, but the brand needed a revival, which Mr Coyle was more than willing to give his best shot.
He dove into marketing the brand and giving it new life, and sales rocketed.
With numerous famous crisp brands under his belt, including Tayto, as well as Hunky Dory and the Perri brand, he expanded the company before selling up several stakes in the company between 2007 and 2015. He withdrew from Tayto Snacks in 2016, but not before establishing Tayto Park in 2010.
Dragon’s Den Investor Alison Cowzer commended Mr Coyle’s entrepreneurism throughout his career and recalled the beginnings of Tayto Park in a piece published in The Currency.
“I remember Ray laying out the architect’s plans for the park on the bar in the Shelbourne Hotel one Friday evening,” Cowzer said. “He spoke excitedly of the idea for a theme park in a field in Co. Meath, with ambitions to build the best roller coaster in Europe.”
Mr Coyle’s planning paid off, and the Cú Chulainn roller coaster has been the largest wooden rollercoaster in Europe since its unveiling in 2015.
Tayto Park remains Mr Coyle’s legacy, holding the title of the largest amusement park in Ireland and welcoming over five million visitors since it opened its gates.
Earlier this year, Mr Coyle confirmed that Tayto Snacks ended their partnership with Tayto Park and promised a “new and exciting chapter” as the park is due to undergo a name change and a new €30 million investment.
Mr Coyle is remembered as a successful, risk-taking businessman who put Meath on the map as it hadn’t been before. He provided hundreds of locals with employment, either at the Tayto factory or the park, and continuously supported the community.