South Tipperary Co. Council has bade farewell to one of its most popular staff members and great characters, Donny McDonald, who has retired from the local authority after 44 years service as a draftsman.
But the Clonmel man has left behind at County Hall a legacy of his beautiful paintings that adorn its hallways, offices and public areas.
His many friends at the Council marked the retirement of their unofficial artist-in-residence with a party in the staff canteen on Friday, February 8. It was followed that night by a celebration in Chawkes Bar, where Donny previously worked part-time as a bar man for about 20 years.
Donny returned to County Hall last Friday to meet some of his former colleagues in the Roads Department, and told The Nationalist that what he will miss most about his job is his friends and the bit of craic” they all enjoyed together while working.
But he plans to keep up regular contact with then by dropping in for visits to the staff canteen for tea and a chat.
Donny, who lives at Woodville Terrace, Clonmel, began his working life in the signs department at the former Currans Factory located opposite Clonmel Railway Station.
He got a job at the enamel ware and signs factory after completing his Leaving Cert in 1966 and just over two years later he successfully applied for the post of trainee draftsman at the Co. Council.
He joined the Council, then located at the Clonmel Gaelscoil premises in Irishtown, in October 1968, and spent the next two years learning the skills of a draftsman on the job and at building construction and design night classes.
Donny worked with every department in the council from roads to housing to water services during his 44 years as a general draftsman with the local authority.
His work ranged from drawing artists impressions of buildings and streetscapes for town and county development plans to house plan designs and drawing and design work on major roads projects like the Cashel Bypas.
The introduction of computer technology was the biggest change he experienced in his career. But it was a change he adapted well to.
“When I started work we still had to do road work by pen and house designs all had to be done by pen. They are all done by computer now,” he recalls.
Donny’s talent and skills are not confined to drafting designs for council projects. He great passion for art is visible on the walls of County Hall, which has become a gallery for many of his impressive paintings.
All his paintings are done in pastel chalk and many depict landscape scenes. His big influences are Picasso and Salvador Dali.
He has given many pieces as gifts to friends for occasions like weddings and donated half of the proceeds of the only exhibition of his work that he staged in the 1990s to charity.
“I am not in it for the money,” he says.
He is also a keen poet and one of the poems he is proudest of “The Traveller” hangs beside his old desk in the County Council. He has written a considerable body of poetry over the past 30 years and is considering putting them together in a book.
There is no doubt the many fans of his art will look forward to its publication.