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.’