Allen McClay

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Sir Allen McClay
Born Allen McClay
(1932-03-21)21 March 1932
Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, UK
Died 12 January 2010(2010-01-12) (aged 77)
Hahnemann University Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Cause of death Cancer
Education Cookstown High School
Alma mater Belfast College of Technology
Occupation Pharmacist, entrepreneur
Title CBE
Spouse(s) Heather Topping (1983–2010; his death)

Sir Allen McClay CBE (21 March 1932 – 12 January 2010[1]) was a Northern Irish multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist who founded Galen (later Warner Chilcott), a pharmaceutical company which was Northern Ireland's first one billion pound business.[2] After resigning from Galen in 2001, he went on to form a second successful pharmaceutical company, the Almac Group.


Dr. McClay was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone in 1932 and was the youngest of six children.[3] He attended Cookstown High School and Belfast College of Technology (now Belfast Metropolitan College) later qualifying as a pharmacist in 1953 after apprenticeship.[4][5]

In 1955, he joined Glaxo, where he worked for 13 years as a medical rep, before founding his own company, Galen, in Craigavon in 1968. He left Galen, which produces contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy drugs, in 2001, having become unhappy with the company's direction after its London Stock Exchange flotation in 1997. McClay retired from Galen on 31 September, and the following day rented accommodation close to the site Galen occupied for what would become his second successful company, Almac Sciences.[6] McClay purchased five divisions of Galen Holdings plc. and formed Almac in January 2002.[7] Almac provides services including research & development and manufacturing to other pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. The company, whose turnover is £167m, employs more than 1500 people in Craigavon and has expanded into England, Scotland and the United States.[5][8]

In 1973, McClay bought Connors Chemists, a pharmacy in Warrenpoint, which developed into a chain of branches across the UK managed by his brother Howard, and was sold to The Boots Company in 1998.[9][10]


McClay established the McClay Trust in 1997, a charitable organisation which "support[s] research and development activities within" Queen's University Belfast.[11][12] The trust has donated £20 million to the university, which has included sponsorship of PhD studentships at the university's Cancer Research centre. The trust also funded the £3.5m McClay Research Centre at the School of Pharmacy which opened in 2002,[13][14] and contributed money to the building of the new University Library at Queen's, which opened in 2009 and is now named after McClay.[15] Sir George Bain, a former vice-chancellor at Queen's, has described McClay as "the most significant philanthropist Northern Ireland has ever known".[8] In recognition the university commissioned two portraits of McClay by local artist Ian Cumberland, one of which was gifted to his wife the other is on display in the Library.

McClay was reported by the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List to be Northern Ireland's sixth richest person, with his wealth estimated at £190 million.[16] In 2009, he used his wealth to establish the McClay Foundation, a charitable trust focused on cancer research.[17]

McClay received an OBE in 1994, followed by a CBE in 2000 for contributions to the pharmaceutical industry in Northern Ireland.[4][18] In the New Year Honours List of 2006 he was made Knight Bachelor for services to business and charity.[19]

McClay married his partner Heather Topping in 2009 in the United States. He had no children.[17] He died on 12 January at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had been receiving treatment for cancer.[5]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Tycoon and patron who never forgot his roots". The Irish Times. 16 January 2010. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Below the Radar – Sir Allen McClay". Thinking Big. 13 January 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  3. ^ Casey, Carissa (Apr–May 2007). "The Medicine Man" (PDF). Cara Magazine. Aer Lingus. Retrieved 14 January 2010.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b "The World's Biggest Chemistry Set: Interview with Dr Allen McClay" (PDF). Almac Sciences. July 2004. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  5. ^ a b c Ross, Symon (13 January 2010). "Northern Ireland magnate Sir Allen McClay dies in US". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  6. ^ Williams, Eoghan (28 October 2007). "When the chemistry is just right". Irish Independent. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  7. ^ Lillington, Karlin (1 July 2008). "Profile: Sir Allen McClay" (PDF). The Scientist. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Head of drugs giant Almac, Sir Allen McClay, dies". BBC. 13 January 2010. Archived from the original on 14 January 2010. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  9. ^ "'Aladdin's cave of opportunities awaits the Province and people'". The News Letter. 14 September 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2010.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Observer: Howard's Way". The Financial Times. 8 April 1998.
  11. ^ "McClay Trust Four Year PhD Studentships in Cancer Research". Queen's University, Belfast. Retrieved 14 January 2010.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Pharmaceutical Research Centre opens". Chemist & Druggist. 19 January 2002.
  13. ^ "About Us". School of Pharmacy website. Queen's University, Belfast. Archived from the original on 16 October 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  14. ^ "New £3.5m research centre for Belfast". The Pharmaceutical Journal. 265 (7104): 38. 8 July 2000. Archived from the original on 9 July 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  15. ^ "About the McClay Library". McClay Library website. Queen's University, Belfast. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
  16. ^ "Quinn 'loses billion in a year'". BBC. 26 April 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  17. ^ a b Manley, John (14 January 2010). "Millionaire philanthropist was totally down-to-earth". Irish News. p. 43.
  18. ^ "Life peerages for Professors and drinks chief; Queen's Birthday Honours". The Guardian. 11 June 1994. p. 10.
  19. ^ "Buckingham beckons for local recipients of New Year's Honours". Tyrone Times. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 14 January 2010.

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