This week will see the end of an era in Donegal County Council with the retirement of one of the Councils most senior engineers Aidan O’Doherty after 40 years of loyal service.
While Aidan is looking forward to spending more time with his family, there is also a hint of sadness at leaving the Council.
“I am looking forward to the future but I do have mixed feelings about my retirement. I have loved working in Donegal County Council. I have made wonderful friends and I have had the opportunity to work on exciting projects that have had a positive impact on people’s lives.
“On the other hand I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and I am especially looking forward to the birth of my first grandchild in the next couple of weeks in San Francisco” says Aidan.
Friends, colleagues and retired colleagues paid tribute to Aidan at his retirement function in the Courthouse Lifford on Thursday last.
Described by his close friend and colleague, Eamon Canney as a man of vision, Aidan’s career spans almost 40 years and he has seen many changes during this time and it is safe to say that he has had a role in shaping many of these changes.
Aidan, a native of Lifford but now living in Donegal Town has taken time out this week to talk to us about his career, the changes he has seen and his plans for the future.
“I joined the Council in 1975 just five days after I graduated from what was then known as University College Galway. I always wanted to come back to Donegal and that was one of the reasons why I chose a career in engineering.
“My father was an engineer in Donegal County Council and I knew from him that there were jobs for engineers in Donegal. I was very lucky to be coming out of university at a time when the Council was recruiting.”
“My first job in the Council took me to Ballyshannon and it was here that I met my wife Margaret who was just qualifying as a teacher. We married in 1981 and that day was, without a doubt, the most important day of my life. Unfortunately Margaret passed away at the age of 48 in August 2002 after a short illness and this had a profound affect on me and on our four children.”
Aidan’s retirement marks the end of 120 years of service for the O’Doherty family with the Council.
Aidan’s father Terry worked as an engineer from 1946 to 1987 and at 90 years of age was one of the special guests at Aidan’s retirement function. His Uncle Gerry, who died two years ago, was also an engineer in the Council from 1945 to 1985.
Speaking about the highlights of his career, Aidan recalls three things.
“Firstly the design and construction by direct labour of the Laghey / Ballintra bypass. This was a 10km stretch of road and was one of the first by-passes in the country at the time and remains an important part of the roads infrastructure in the county today.
“The second highlight for me was in 1993 when Donegal County Council was approached by the National Roads Authority (NRA) and asked to set up a dedicated design team for the NRA in the Council. This was very exciting and meant that we were creating excellent engineering job opportunities in Donegal. This was happening at a time following a lengthy recruitment embargo. It allowed us to create jobs for young talented engineers and technicians with fresh ideas and new ways of working. Many of these people still work in the Council today.”
“This led to the third highlight which was the setting up of the National Road Design Office or NRDO in Donegal Town. In 1998 the NRA approached the Council once more and asked to set up a dedicated office to work on NRA Projects. This has evolved in to the National Roads Office or NRO. It is one of ten such offices located throughout the country. Again we saw it as a great opportunity to create high quality jobs in Donegal. It meant that engineers and technicians that might otherwise have had to relocate to one of the main cities or overseas, had an opportunity to get a good job in Donegal”.
The NRO designed and continues to design national roads infrastructure including projects such as the Ballyshannon / Bundoran By-pass, the Donegal Town Bypass, the Manorcunningham to Lifford Road, the Ballybofey to Lifford road, the Ballybofey/Stranorlar By-pass and much more.
When asked about the biggest changes he has seen, Aidan talks about the changes in technology that has transformed the way engineers do their jobs.
“The technology we used when I first started working was not all that different to what would have been using in the 1830s when the Country was being surveyed. The advancements in technology since then is phenomenal. Today we use things like digital satellites to provide survey information. This would have been unheard of when I started out in 1975”.
“When I left university in 1975, we were living in country which was only a member of the EU for two years and we were still quite poor. Most young people left school at 14. Girls would get jobs in a local factory and boys would pick up casual work here and there and it was only the privileged few that went on to university. Today that has changed and most young people have an opportunity to go to third level education and I think that this is great. It is certainly a change for the better”.