Tributes Paid To Leading Tourism Operator Mrs. Susan Johnson

From: Dunphy Public Relations
Published: Mon Mar 31 2008

Mrs. Susan Johnson, who opened Aillwee Cave to tourists over thirty years ago, passed away following a prolonged illness at her residence in France.

"Business woman, entrepreneur, craft worker, wife and mother are but some of the titles one might place on her none of which fully capture the person she was", commented Ben Johnson, Susan’s son and Director of Aillwee Cave.

He added "Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan stands as a testimony to some of her achievements and is probably the best known tourist attraction not only in Clare but throughout Ireland."

Arriving in Ireland from Africa in the late 1960s Susan and her husband Roger settled in Kilfenora. Roger took over Liscannor Stone Quarries while Susan began her craft career by opening one of the first craft shops in the area "Burren Bazaar". She made most of her own stock, including sand candles, soft toys and watercolour cards.

Against the odds and at great cost and risk Susan and Roger, together with Anni and Michéal Mulqueeney, began to develop Aillwee Cave in Ballyvaughan in 1974. The cave first opened to the public in 1976.

In addition to hosting Ireland’s premier show cave, the Aillwee Cave currently offers visitors a well serviced 24-acre site including Cheese Making at the Farmshop, Coppice Woodland and Mountain Walks, and attracts over 180,000 visitors a year.

According to Ben Johnson, "A dusty track up the mountain to a [portable cabin] with a burco boiler and open hole in the ground, a string of bulbs and a diesel generator; that’s how it began."

"The development of Aillwee Cave as a major tourist attraction became her life for the next thirty years where she had a hand in steering its course and watching it grow though hard work, foresight and determination to what it has become today", he stated.

Ms. Barbara Faulkner, Marketing Manager of Aillwee Cave, described Mrs. Johnson as "a formidable woman remembered for her forthrightness, her humour, her ability to listen and dispense advice and most of all for her wacky ideas thrown out for others to run with. ‘Santa at Aillwee Cave’, for example, has gone on to be voted the best of its kind in the country and a huge success. She will be sorely missed."

Ms. Faulkner continued, "Susan should be proud to know that what she has created continues to grow and develop and not only provide employment and generate income but provide visitors a chance to experience a little that reflects Susan’s character. Aillwee Cave is a fun and informative place, a place to gather your thoughts with stunning views over Galway Bay and perhaps into the future."

"Our sympathy lies with her husband Roger who is residing in France and her three sons Nicky, Ben and Adam of whom she was immensely proud and who carry on in her stead. May she rest in peace", concluded Ms. Faulkner.

A remembrance service for Mrs. Susan Johnson will be held at St. John the Baptist Church in Ballyvaughan at 7:00 p.m. on Friday 11th April 2008.


Notes to Editor:
- A high-resolution image of the late Susan Johnson is available on request. Please contact Mark Dunphy of Dunphy Public Relations on 086-8534900 or
- Aillwee Cave is one of the many thousands of ancient caves beneath The Burren with over 1km of passages. Its features include an underground river and waterfall as well as stalactites and stalagmites. The remains of bears can be seen inside the caves. Unlike many other caves there is no evidence that cave has been used by humans.

Mark Dunphy
Dunphy Public Relations
00353-868534900 (mobile)
00353-656839692 (fax)
Company: Dunphy Public Relations
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