Donald Barrett Mackay 1955-2019 (S 1948-1953)


Donald Barrett Mackay died on 18 February 2019. The following obituary has been written by his wife Deirdre, his eldest daughter Fiona, and his good friends Nick Carey and David Miller (1955).

Donald was born in Egypt, where his father was chairman of ICI Egypt. Donald himself later became the third generation of Mackay working for ICI and was the youngest director appointed when he became finance director of ICI Mond Division ni 1974, and the longest-serving when he retired in 1991.

Following boarding school at Cumner House and Sedbergh, when there were occasional trips home to see his parents by flying boat to Cairo, and two years of National Service as second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, Donald went to Emmanuel College, reading economics and law.

David Miller has given us a flavour of his time there, Donald carried on his love for and skill at rugby started at Sedbergh by playing for Emmanuel College first fifteen for a very successful three years, as they reached the Cuppers final in all three years and won twice. He was known as the ’80-minute man’ because he never stopped running from the first to the last whistle. He also played for Cambridge LX in 1958.

David, Donald and two other great friends, Alan Shore and Ted Wates, were members of the Emmanuel Pagans, the Emma eighth or rugby boat. Their plan was to make bumps each day and win their oars in the May races, and then relax with ale at the Plough and watch for the rest of the day. Having failed dismally at this, they decided the only distinction they could achieve was to start the last day as the bottom boat on the river. Even that did not go to plan as the cox of the Fitzwilliam boat in front crossed his rudder strings as he got in and steered straight into the opposite river bank. Even the pagans had no problem bumping a stopped boat, removing a chunk off the bow of their ancient eight in the process. The Pagans were also a college cricket team, mostly rugby players. The wicket keeper was always the Harvard scholar on the basis that as an American he would be used to a baseball glove. The object was to draw, which was very difficult. They never won a match, except once accidentally against the ladies of Girton College. Whilst at Cambridge, Donald and three friends also completed the Three Peaks Challenge.

Donald continued to enjoy competitive sport, playing for Esher rugby club first fifteen follwoing university and was a member of the Hawks Club. He was a very good golfer with a single-figure handicap, a captain of his local golf club Sandiway, and also a member at various times of Sanderstead, Delamere, Lytham St Annes and Durness. He was a member of the Woodpekcers (ex-Oxbridge rugby players), continuing to enjoy the strong friendships made at university playing golf with them until last year.

Donald met Deirdre his wife whilst working as an articled clerk for Price Waterhouse in London. She was working as a physiotherapist and he had a rugby injury. They married on 7 July 1962; his best man Alan Shore was a friend from Emmanuel College. They spent their honeymoon driving through France and Italy with a week in Portofino en route to Donald’s first job as a qualified chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse in Zurich. Here he carried on with sport, playing football and learning to ski. Two years later they returned to England. Donald started work with ICI and their first daughter, Fiona, arrived. After a few years working in London where their second daughter, Penny, was born, they moved to Cheshire and put down firm roots, in the same house for 50 years. The twins Can and Lizz were born here.

The family being settled and happy in the area resulted in Donald putting off any requests for him to move back to head office in London. Donald and Deirdre travelled widely with ICI as Donald was chairman of many subsidiary companies, and friends were made through trips to Kenya (Magadi Soda), USA (Nalfloc), Germany (ID Chemicals) and Italy (Degussa). Retiring from ICI was not the end of work for Donald; instead he became chair of the Cheshire Building Society.

He was happiest in the outdoors, whether playing sport or with his family on holidays in north-west Scotland. He enjoyed very much fishing with Deirdre and was a member of Wyresdale Anglers for 44 years. They also enjoyed annual fishing holidays on Islay, the Carron and the Dionard with friends, including the Millers. Holidays in north-west Scotland allowed him to spend valuable time with his family, encouraging his children and his seven grandchildren to love the outdoors and that part of Scotland, teaching them to fish, swim, explore and appreciate family and adventure.

A committed Christian, he was an active member of his church in Little Budworth, serving at various times as treasurer, sidesman, lesson reader and church warden.

Fiona writes that she found Ralph Emerson’s definition of success written out on her Dad’s desk: ‘To laugh often and to love much, to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give oneself; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know one life has breathed easier because you have lived: this is to have succeeded.’ On this basis my Dad was a huge success and will be greatly missed.