Castleknock College Union
Join The Union

Frank O'Donnell, class 59

In Memoriam

Jan 21, 2014
Frank O'Donnell, class 59 - KnockUnion.ie
The Union is saddened to report the death of Judge Frank O'Donnell, class '59, past President of the Union and College Governor 1989-98.

The death has occurred of Frank O'DONNELL
Sandycove, Dublin / Burtonport, Donegal

Peacefully, in the wonderful care of the staff at St. Vincent’s Private Hospital; beloved husband of Maeve and loving father of David, James, Philip, Fiona and Deirdre. He will be sadly missed by his loving family, Joan, brother Donal, sisters Terry and Clodagh, daughters-in-law Sarah and Linda, son-in-law D.J., grandchildren James, Joseph, Julia, Seamus, Hugh, Ciarán, Seán, Tadgh and Dearbhla, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

Reposing at home on Thursday from 2pm prior to removal to Church of the Assumption, Dalkey arriving at 6pm on Thursday evening. Requiem Mass on Friday at 10am, followed by removal to St. Columba’s Church, Acres, Burtonport, Donegal, arriving at 7pm. Funeral Mass on Saturday at 11am, followed by burial in Belcruit.

Date Published: Tuesday 21st January 2014

Date of Death: Tuesday 21st January 2014


Frank and his brother Donal (class '55) came to us from Burtonport, Co. Donegal where their father Patrick was Fine Gael T.D. and Minister for Local Government in the 1954-57 Government. His contemporaries will remember Frank as one who was successful in class and on the football pitch where in his final year he was pack leader and vice-captain of the '59 Knock team that won the Senior Cup.

On leaving Castleknock Frank studied law at UCD and after qualifying as a Solicitor, he secured a Samuel Ruben Foundation Scholarship to undertake a post-graduate LL..M. at Harvard Law School. Frank incidentally was the first of a long line of past men to avail of this scholarship as Water Smithwick, whose sons all attended Knock, was a good friend of the benefactor and made a point of promoting the scholarship within the College. It was during his year at Harvard that Frank married Maeve Maurer from Ennis and they went on to have five children: David, James, Philip, Fiona and Deirdre. Nothing delights us more than when past men send their sons to the College, and this was especially so when Frank sent sons David (1978-84) and Philip (1983-88). We missed out on the middle brother James as he, after Ring, opted to continue his secondary education 'as Gailge' at Colaiste Eoin in Stillorgan and sisters Fiona and Deirdre went to Loreto, Dalkey.

After a year's graduate experience in Chicago, late '67, Frank now a married man, returned to Ireland to work with fellow past-man David Bell (class '38). When David was appointed Taxing Master in the Four Courts, Frank entered into partnership with Larry Branigan and amongst others, fellow past man Tim O'Driscoll (class '65), to create the successful firm that was to become "Bell, Branigan, O'Donnell & O'Brien, Solicitors, Dublin". The strength of character which was discernible in Frank as a boy had now delivered him as a respected member of the legal profession. Government appointments followed; including in 1973 to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal and 1986 to the Civil Legal Aid Board. In 1970 he was elected by his peers to the Council of the Law Society and in 1984 as their President, he had the honour of addressing the American Bar Association, where he made quite an impression, for they in turn elected him an honorary member.

A brilliant legal career turned to public service when May 1995 Frank was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court, a position he held with distinction until retirement in March 2011. He alongside John Buckley and Michael White were the first solicitors ever appointed to the Circuit Court. Just reward, for Frank was a trailblazer who led on securing the legislation that enabled such appointments and the 2002 follow-on legislation that enabled solicitors to be appointed direct to the High and Supreme Courts. His legacy will live long.

Legal prowess aside, we remember Frank as a great friend of the College; a past man who never forgot his alma mater and one who was a constant source of help and advice to us. On this like all matters, his thinking was crystal clear - "I owe much to 'Knock and I see it as a duty and a privilege to help where I can". It is impossible to fully document here that contribution, but it would be remiss not to mention his highly successful Chairmanship of the College Fundraising Committee 1990-94, his nine year stint on the Board of Governors 1989-98 and more than 20 odd years service for the Union, which culminated with Frank serving as President of the Union in 1990/91. Not content with that, he instilled these values in his children, and so 2011 saw his son David pick up the mantle and serve as President of the Union.

Our loss is great but pales into insignificance to that of Maeve and the children David, James, Philip, Fiona and Deirdre. To them, his brother Donal, sisters Terry and Clodagh and all family and friends, we extend our heartfelt condolences.

Requiescat in Pace.