Neville Isdell and The Story of Epic Ireland

We all have a story to tell. Neville Isdell’s story is about the journey one man took from his birthplace in Ireland to Africa, and then embarked on an odyssey throughout diverse parts of the world, until he found a way of attaching himself back to Ireland, in a very special way. Knowing a wee bit about Neville, the way he planted his shillelagh back in Ireland, is so Irish; and so Isdellish.

Much has been written about Neville over the years, and even more has been said about the man; where he came from, what he has achieved, and what he plans to keep doing for the rest of his life.

Neville Isdell in the blue and white hunting down Dawie De Villiers

I have known Neville for over 50 years, played rugby alongside him at UCTRFC and at Wanderers RFC, Johannesburg. One develops a perception of a man when you play rugby alongside him over a period of time. My abiding perception of Neville is that of a man who decides what he wants, plans and prepares accordingly, and then goes after achieving the set goals with all the determination and dedicated application of a relentless loose forward hunting down a flyhalf for execution. The execution is not haphazard, ‘balls to the wall’ stuff. It is the implementation of a lot of research, planning and preparation, and then ‘take no prisoners.’

You might say that Neville is a driven man with a light touch. The Irish charm belies a tough mind and a very clear vision of who he is, what he values, and what he is still striving to achieve in his seventies.

Rugby is a mirror of life. Teamwork, interdependency, and the ability to put your personal stamp on the game without compromising the efforts of your team mates, is the underlying principle of the game. Individualists might shine in spurts, but the MVP (Most Valuable Player) Principle is paramount. The man who can see the objective, be it the tryline, the ball bobbing around in the loose like an elusive trout, teasing a fisherman, or an opposition flyhalf who needs to be sacked by tackling him out of his socks, and keep in mind what the team needs at that moment, is the essence of a good rugby player; and of a worthwhile man.

Whether Neville contemplated the philosophy of Aristotle, in his peripatetic wanderings, is open to debate, but one thing is certain. Neville never stopped being an Irishman, with a chunk of Africa imbedded deep in his soul. It was a case of ‘keep the shillelagh handy in case the Irish charm fails.’

The Launch of Epic Ireland

Neville undertook the challenge of acquiring the CHQ buildings alongside the Liffey in Dublin, and transforming it into a multi-faceted working complex, and a piece of Irish history in the complex, called EPIC IRELAND, the story of the Irish Diaspora through the ages.

Why did Neville sail into the speculative sea of property development in these uncertain times? Only Neville can answer that question satisfactorily, but besides the sensible decision to diversify his investment portfolio, the serendipitous element came into play. Neville has more than once grabbed the nettle of risky opportunity in his life, and in this case the elements of need, opportunity and vision came together, driven by Neville as the conductor of an orchestra which combined business opportunities with supplying a need for the Irish Diaspora to be kept alive in perpetuity.

The object of this piece in the Ikey Tiger’s Newsletter is to set a teaser for those interested in a UCTRFC/ Ikey Tiger luminary, and what he has done recently. It is hoped that early next year during his annual sabbatical to Africa, Neville will regale us with his Epic Ireland story from the podium of the Neville Isdell Rugby Centre.

Dublin is a city full of charm, but until now surprisingly short of tourist attractions. Epic Ireland is the centre point of a business hub, shops, restaurants and an innovative facility where aspirant entrepreneurs can flight their potential winners in the competitive breakthrough ventures. The cherry on the top of the CHQ cake is the interactive experience of Irish history through the eyes of more than 200 notable members of the Irish Diaspora.

UCT has produced many remarkable men and women in its long history who have gone out from the varsity on the mountain to make a difference in the fields of academia, business, medicine, science, sport, social upliftment, politics and many other facets of life.

Some have acquired fame and wealth, but the significant caveat attached to the acquisition of wealth and fame is what they have done with the money, and the fame.

Neville Isdell is acutely aware of his good fortune, and has chosen to put his money where he believes it can be most beneficial to a select group of people, philanthropic initiatives and to pursue personal aims.

We all want to leave a mark. Neville is putting his size 12s down firmly in Ireland. We look forward to following the development of Epic Ireland, and the next chapter in the life of a special Ikey Tiger.

Gavin Fernie

For more information on Epic Ireland, visit:

Take a tour of Epic Ireland