Tuesday 13 November 2018

The O'Donovan

CHARLES LYSAGHT MORGAN Gerald Daniel The O'Donovan (known as Dan) was close on 40 when he came to Ireland in 1970 as chief executive of the Irish arm of Wates, the English builders

He had seen little of Ireland in his early life. The family had moved to England in 1917. By the time his father Brigadier The O'Donovan (who served in Iraq in 1919) retired to Skibbereen in 1950, Dan had completed his schooling at Stowe in Buckinghamshire.

After national service with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, he took honours in history at Cambridge. A post with Coats, the thread manufacturers, took him to Singapore, Cuba, Colombia and Australia.

Neil Wates, a Stowe schoolmate, asked him to go to Dublin. But the Wates family cooled on Ireland in the Seventies and sold a majority stake in Wates (Ireland) to the McGraths, who in turn preferred to realise the company's land bank rather than build houses in a troubled economy.

So, in 1977, with his business career cut short, The O'Donovan with his wife Jane (daughter of Irishman Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer of Malaya fame) moved to Hollybrook House, the Edwardian house he had inherited near Skibbereen. Between farming, gardening, tourist lettings, shooting and fishing, he has had a full life.

He has been on the synod of the church and chairman of the Council of Irish Chiefs. In 2000, he gathered 1,500 O'Donovans for a family rally at historic Castle Donovan near Drimoleague.

All three of his children live in England, although son Teige, a solicitor, plans to return shortly. The younger daughter Mary, an alumna of Alexandra and TCD, is married to Francis Chamberlain, a barrister, grandson of Neville Chamberlain, the former British prime minister.

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