Saturday 16 November 2019

Donal (Don) Seligman

This former junior counsel was a man of great charm and a Grand Master of the Bridge world

A GENTLEMAN: Donal (Don) Seligmanhad
A GENTLEMAN: Donal (Don) Seligmanhad

Rory Egan

One of the best loved members of the legal, business and Jewish community died last Monday. Don Seligman, who was also an international Bridge player, was an example to all that you can succeed in many areas and still treat everyone from all walks of life with respect, dignity and kindness. Little wonder his funeral service in Woodtown Cemetery in Rathfarnham was packed out.

Don was born in Dublin on July 19, 1928. His father, Ephraim, was born in Swansea but his family had originally come from Wodz in Poland.

Don's mother, Esther, was born in Ireland but her family came from Lithuania.

One of three children, Don went to High School in Rathgar where he excelled, particularly in languages. He could speak fluently in English, German, French, Hebrew, Russian, Polish, Italian and Latin and even had a 'cupla focal' in Irish.

Such was his academic prowess that he attained the extraordinary achievement of completing his matriculation, his law degree and his master's by the tender age of 19.

Because he could not be called to the bar until he was 21, Don decided to travel to the new state of Israel out of both a sense of adventure and of duty. He worked at a kibbutz, on a fish farm, which was even more ironic as he had a particular distaste for fish. However, his time on the kibbutz indirectly provided the circumstances for his lifelong love of the humble donkey.

Life in these emerging makeshift communities was hard and food had to be gathered from miles around.

One day, on Don's turn to collect food, he set off with nothing but a donkey to help him carry his load.

On his return journey he got caught up in a rare but extremely dangerous snowstorm in the desert. Unprotected and disorientated, as all paths and directions were completely obliterated by the deep snow, Don became fatigued and genuinely feared for his life.

Eventually, when he could go on no further, he remembers the donkey going down on his knees as if to help him get on. The donkey, although exhausted itself, somehow trekked on and made its way back to the kibbutz with Don on its back.

Don never forgot that and even insisted to his family that no flowers be bought for his funeral. Instead, he asked that donations be made to the Irish Donkey Sanctuary.

On his return to Ireland, his great charm and keen intellect quickly made him one of Ireland's busiest junior counsel.

He started going out with the late June Levine, the former author, activist and producer.

However, he soon realised that his attentions were turning to her younger sister, and thus started a love story that would last nearly 60 years.

Don married Dorothy Barbara Levine and frequently told his family that every moment with her was 'like a gift from God'.

Together they had two sons and two daughters, Max, Kerry Ann, Kim and Jeremy. He was a devoted dad and was never happier than when he was with his family. As Jeremy said so eloquently at his funeral service, "In Dad's eyes, all his children were perfect".

When the children were grown up, Barbara followed Don into the law and became a much respected barrister in her own right. She also decided to take up Don's other great interest in life, Bridge.

Don had already established himself as an international player of note. He represented Ireland many times and played in the Olympiad, the World Team Bridge Championships and the European Championships, or Common Market Championships as it was then called, where he won a Bronze medal. He was one of those rare elite of the Bridge world, a Grand Master.

Little did he know that his wife Barbara, having learnt Bridge to share his interest, would go on to become one of the greatest women Bridge players in Ireland and internationally of her time, representing Ireland on many occasions and also at the European, World and Olympiad Championships.

Don was asked to take over the Levine family business, Cook's Tyres in Fenian Street. Once again, success was no stranger to him and he grew the business until he sold it in the 80s, all the while keeping up his legal practice.

He never wanted to retire, maintaining that all his friends who retired died soon after. Regrettably, his theory was vindicated.

He retired from the bar two years ago and within a year his health had deteriorated. The last year of his life was spent in the Beacon Clinic where Barbara, the love of his life, never missed a day visiting him.

Don Seligman was a kind, considerate and greatly respected gentleman with many talents and few imperfections.

He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Sunday Independent

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