Home Arts & Culture Dave MacGowan – gregarious and industrious civil engineer

Dave MacGowan – gregarious and industrious civil engineer

5 min read

An Appreciation

 Dave MacGowan –   gregarious and industrious  civil engineer

He worked up until his 79th birthday, before announcing his second retirement due to “more important things to attend to”.




Dave MacGowan (June 6th, 1930 – March 25th, 2017) was the son of the local Garda sergeant, and he grew up mostly in Co Mayo. When he wasn’t “hooking fish” from the bridge in Cong, he was attempting to sneak on to The Quiet Man film set. He always claimed to be in the crowd somewhere along the fight scene by the river.

He went to school in St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, and later graduated from UCD with a civil engineering degree. He emigrated to London, where he first helped build office blocks and later travelled with the British Imperial Road Building company, first to Nigeria and later to northern Cameroon, before returning to Ireland.

He met Marie Tighe in Kells in June 1960, and by October they were on a boat headed to Nigeria, having been married in the University Church, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

Two years later they were back in Co Meath, Dave having swapped construction work in Nigeria for a life on a farm just outside Kells, where they introduced African curries, blue cheese and tropical fruit to the local diet.

Dave spent the next few years working as an engineer in Donegal, Tipperary, Offaly and Galway.

He was appointed assistant county engineer to Meath County Council in the late 1960s. He served as area engineer in the Trim and Kells districts. Dave was promoted to chief assistant county engineer in 1975. He was in charge of the Road Design Office where all road projects were planned and designed. Dave subsequently was appointed the planning officer, in which he was responsible for the planning and development of the county and to the town engineer position responsible for the towns of Navan, Trim and Kells. Dave also on a number of occasions acted in the position of county engineer.

He retired at age 63 but after a few years restarted working life as clerk of works for the construction of the new convent in Kells. He worked up until his 79th birthday, before announcing his second retirement due to “more important things to attend to”.

Out of that family cauldron came quite the character. By times, Dave was ruthlessly focused on work, driven, stubborn, meeting every challenge head on and intent on making everything better; and at other times, he was the curious, mischievous storyteller who had a genuine talent for making people laugh.

He was a deeply religious man. Many of his friends were clergy, not least his school classmates in Jarlath’s. He was a generous loving husband and father, who repeated one value over and over, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly”. He loved singing, and he died working in his beloved garden on a sunny afternoon.

He is survived by his wife Marie, son Jack and daughter Mary.

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