O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd.
Turlough McKevitt has worked with many local consultants, collaborators, clients and contractors since establishing the practice back in 1973.
Some have ceased to exist and some McKevitt King Architects are very proud to be still working with today, keeping our strong ties to the locality very much alive.
One such establishment, no longer in existence, was O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd.; one of the largest contractor/joinery workshops operating in Drogheda at the time McKevitt King Architects (then known as McKevitt O’Reilly) was established.
Danny O’Donnell, a Donegal man born in Dungloe, gained much experience in construction during WWII, working on the constructions of houses and huts required at the time.
Upon his return to Ireland following the conclusion of the war; one of Danny’s few options of employment in Ireland at the time was to be found at Mosney, Co. Meath where a new state of the art holiday camp known as Butlin's was under construction.
Whilst working on the project, Danny moved to Drogheda, taking up residence at a local bed & breakfast in the centre of the Drogheda, situated on Trinity Street. It was here that he met another Trinity Street resident and Drogheda native, Kitty Dunne, at an event in the Whitworth Hall. They married shortly after and Danny’s residence here in Drogheda became permanent. This was despite the fact that Kitty’s family were less than impressed with the man she brought home; who in their opinion was speaking a different language with his thick Donegal accent!
Danny and Kitty moved into a flat in George's Square in Drogheda (now Roma’s Takeaway) where Danny began working for Danny Black – a joiner operating out of the Fair Green.
Following the arrival of Danny and Kitty’s first two children Pat and Anne, the couple bought a new home at the bottom of Mary Street. The house, in need of much repair, became Danny’s next project; he often could often be seen travelling from George's Square to Mary Street balancing a bag of cement across the handlebars of his bicycle!
Whilst working with Danny Black, Danny O’Donnell worked on many projects, of varying shapes and sizes, in the locality until unfortunately Danny Black passed away. At this time, Mrs. Black left the business in Danny O’Donnell and Paddy Byrne’s capable and talented hands who decided to keep the business going, opening the next generation ‘O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd.’
Towards the beginning of the 1960s; O’Donnell & Byrne’s first office opened in Mary Street, occupying a small structure beside the family home. (The building has long since been replaced; the current building houses Barney Flannery Osteopath). As the business expanded and workloads increased, new workshop and office space was required – Danny and Paddy set about constructing their new headquarters on a piece of land in George’s Square (formerly garden space belonging to the residences of Fair Street). Operations moved to the new workshop on George’s Square beside P.J. Leech Ltd. Shopfitters and Building Contractors – another building contractor that McKevitt King Architects would have had a close working relationship with over the years.
The existing building in Mary Street became a ‘hang out space’ for the O’Donnell family (now a family of seven following the addition of Catriona, Martin and Donal) to do their homework and play their records! This space later became the local post office where Kitty was to become post mistress.
Danny and Paddy firmly established themselves in Drogheda working on many joinery and construction projects, expanding throughout the 1960s & 70s. Projects included:
- Drogheda Bus Depot (as it exists today),
- Works to the Star & Crescent Hall, Trinity Street (Now the Trinity Quarter Venue)
- Aggie O’Brien’s Chip Shop, George's Square (Now Dominic’s)
- Flo Gas offices, Dublin Road (Now Dublin Meat Company/Southside Pharmacy)
- PT Exchange, Ballygarth, Julianstown
- Works to United Park
- Wades Supermarket, Ballsgrove (Now Centra)
- Numerous housing/extension projects
- Joinery manufacturing
Martin, Danny’s son fondly recalls visiting the many O’Donnell & Byrne construction sites with his dad:
“Part of Dad’s routine would involve visiting the active sites after hours, in the evening time. He would be checking security, checking on progress, planning the next stages of the jobs. He was very dedicated to each job on the books. When we were children, we often got to go along for the spin. One occasion I distinctly remember was visiting a site in Bryanstown Village. The shell of a new house sat on a prominent corner site in the estate. As we approached, Dad noticed a number of trespassers upstairs in the house and took off like a bullet to chase them out! It was very exciting!”
The 1970s brought about the establishment of McKevitt O’Reilly Architects in Drogheda. Turlough McKevitt fast became a valued collaborator of O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd. As McKevitt O’Reilly Architects evolved, becoming T McKevitt Architect, a strong working relationship was established; delivering a number of projects, some of which are still in use today. The most notable was work O’Donnell & Byrne carried out with Turlough McKevitt for the Papal Visit at Killineer in 1979.
Unfortunately, the construction industry in Ireland was to deteriorate, as was Danny’s health. The economic recession of the 1980s took its toll; O’Donnell & Byrne ceased to exist in 1984. The Flo Gas offices, Dublin Road (Now Dublin Meat Company/Southside Pharmacy) was the last project to be completed before the company was dissolved and the workshop was closed.
Danny passed away shortly after in 1988.
T McKevitt Architect managed to survive the economic recession of the 1980s, bouncing back along with the Irish construction to become McKevitt King Architects as it exists today.
As fate would have it, the current McKevitt King team includes Danny O’Donnell’s grandson Eoin O’Donnell. Nearly 50 years after Turlough first began working with O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd. and 36 years after the company closed; he has crossed paths with an O’Donnell once again!
“I definitely got my interest in construction from the O’Donnell side of the family!” Eoin states
“My Dad, Martin worked for O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd. before it closed and now runs his own maintenance and refurbishment business in Drogheda. I grew up surrounded by construction, joinery & architecture – so it is in the blood!” Eoin continues.
Granda passed away before I was born so I never got an opportunity to meet him, however I know how pleased and proud he would be to learn I now work for Turlough McKevitt.
The McKevitt name was one I was always aware of growing up, the whole O’Donnell clan including my Nana Kitty would have always spoke of the respect Granda had for Turlough and the enjoyment he got out of working with him.
I am often left in awe of the personal connections I have to buildings and projects, or even elements of projects that come along here in the office, 36 years after O’Donnell & Byrne closed, which have a strong connection to Granda and O’Donnell & Byrne. Only yesterday Turlough mentioned to me that the stairs behind me here in the office would have come out of the O’Donnell & Byrne workshop.
Recently McKevitt King worked on an extension and renovation project in Bryanstown Village. I worked with James McKevitt throughout the project, assisting him in delivering a new family home. It was a little over half way through the project when I discovered this house which we had been working on for months was not only built by O’Donnell & Byrne Ltd.; it was the shell of a house my Dad, Martin, remembers Granda chasing the trespassers off!
I discovered that I am the second member of the O’Donnell family to spend time working on this house, without realising it! I think that is something quite remarkable!
There are so many other connections and coincidences which have cropped up since I joined McKevitt King Architects……too many to include!
I am very proud to be contributing, in a small way, the O’Donnell family name to the built environment of Drogheda 36 years after Granda finished. As well as this, I am deeply honoured to be doing so under Turlough McKevitt as part of the McKevitt King team. Granda would be thrilled!!!”
There are many examples of O’Donnell & Byrne’s work as well as O’Donnell & Byrne/T McKevitt Architect projects still in existence around Drogheda today. Some examples include the former Smyth’s offices at Magdalene Street, Drogheda; Smyth’s residence at Piltown, Co. Meath; Smiths residence at Clogherhead, Co. Louth as well as countless joinery applications including the current front door at 50 North Road, Drogheda!
Danny O’Donnell’s legacy in Drogheda is still very much alive; survived today by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Long may it continue!