Obit­u­ary – Eve­lyn MacDon­ald


‘IF I must choose one word, one word more ac­cu­rate than any other, to de­scribe my long friend­ship with Eve­lyn Macdon­ald, then let it be laugh­ter,’ writes her hus­band, Sam.

‘Won­der­ful, wicked, loud, rau­cous, lib­er­at­ing laugh­ter. Her life – her com­pany, her lib­erty and her leisure – all brought joy, con­stant joy to my ex­is­tence, en­rich­ing and em­bold­en­ing it.

‘Think of her, and what song comes in­ces­santly play­ing into mind? Lovely to Look

at, De­light­ful to Know, the great Jerome Kern, whose mu­sic she adored, he had her de­scribed to a tee.

‘Were Fred As­taire to come step­ping her way, no bet­ter woman was ready to trip the light fan­tas­tic with him,’ so wrote Frank McGuin­ness, Ire­land’s fore­most liv­ing play­wright, as part of his trib­ute to Eve­lyn at her fu­neral at the par­ish church in Monkstown, Dublin, on Jan­uary 11.

Eve­lyn was born in Belfast on Oc­to­ber 20, 1934. She spent her early life passed back and forth be­tween her mother, aunts and grand­moth­ers and claimed homes in Belfast, Mon­aghan, and Dun­more East, in County Water­ford, Ire­land. She left school in l949 and went to Belfast Art School at the re­mark­ably early age of 15, where she ex­celled and then went on to London where she stud­ied at St Martin’s Col­lege of Art.

Af­ter fur­ther train­ing in Bel­gium, she moved back to Belfast and worked as a teacher at Stran­mil­lis Train­ing Col­lege and then had a stint do­ing stage dé­cor in Belfast theatre.

She mar­ried me in 1968 af­ter the break up of her first mar­riage to Lawrence Bourne, a London-based tele­vi­sion pro­ducer with whom she had two chil­dren, Ais­ling and Keelin, whose ex­is­tence brought me enor­mous and im­me­di­ate plea­sure in mak­ing us in­stantly a com­plete fam­ily.

In the 1970s, af­ter mov­ing to live in Amer­ica, Eve­lyn taught in the Mid­dle­town High School where she helped pioneer a very suc­cess­ful and in­no­va­tive ‘ School Within a School’ pro­gramme for the ben­e­fit of out­stand­ing stu­dents and stu­dents with par­tic­u­lar learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties.

Af­ter our re­turn to Ire­land, Eve­lyn es­tab­lished a new school in Dublin where she taught batik paint­ing, an elab­o­rate tech­nique in­volv­ing wax and dyes, for sev­eral years be­fore join­ing me in Ar­gyll in 1980 where we both in­volved in the devel­op­ment of Bar­guil­lean Nurs­eries which ran for 30 years.

She con­tin­ued to paint in­ter­mit­tently through­out her time in Taynuilt but re­tained her con­nec­tion with Dublin, her friends and fam­ily there, where she sus­tained the foun­da­tions of a life there that we had hoped to en­joy to­gether be­fore she died.

Those who re­mem­ber her in Ar­gyll will cel­e­brate her gen­eros­ity of spirit, kind­ness and en­ergy.

At her fu­neral, when I spoke for her, I de­scribed her as ‘in­tel­li­gent, wise, beau­ti­ful, lov­ing, force­ful, artis­tic and fearless in the face of in­jus­tice or cru­elty, a woman who made friends wher­ever she went to whom she was fiercely loyal’.

Frank McGuin­ness spoke of her ra­di­ance and I will end by quot­ing him once again.

‘Light – a crea­ture who loved the light, Eve­lyn had about her, had within her the ra­di­ance that cuts to the red heart of things, that il­lu­mi­nates what is best in man, woman, child and beast – how she pro­tected an­i­mals and birds, her beloved dogs, her Gorstain school of swans – and so she val­ued ac­cord­ingly what makes us what we in­trin­si­cally are. That intrepid be­ing, that strik­ing in­di­vid­ual, Eve­lyn Day Macdon­ald val­ued each and ev­ery one of us for what made and makes us unique, all su­perbly dif­fer­ent, that core she could spot and she could cel­e­brate, and she would en­sure we would know how dearly, how deeply, she treasured us for what gifts we brought to her.’

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