Hughie O'Donnell sadly died this month at the young age of 69.
Born in Ireland, Hughie started his tunnelling life in 1966 with Edmond Nuttall and then with Thyssen GB at the Loch Awe hydroelectric scheme. He became a lead miner with CV Buchan on a sewer project in South Shields and then shift boss at the Dinorwic hydroelectric project with John Mowlem until 1974.
He returned to CV Buchan for three years to work on the Newcastle Metro before venturing abroad to work as pit boss with Italian Thai Sheridan in Bangkok on the city’s wastewater scheme. From there Hughie moved to Hong Kong with GKL on the MTR 107 contract until 1980.
Heysham nuclear power station with Taylor Woodrow brought him back to UK for his next project before returning again to Hong Kong to work on the MTR Island Line with Kumagai Gumi. This was followed by work on the Singapore Metro and then to Egypt for engagement on the Cairo Wastewater Scheme. From 1989 to end 1992 Hughie worked as tunnel foreman on the UK side of the Channel Tunnel Project.
Between 1993 and 2001 he worked on tunnelling contracts for the Abbey sewer in east London, the London Underground Jubilee Line Extension Contract 103, the London Docklands Light Railway (DLR) extension, and then to Singapore for the North East Line and on Denmark for the Copenhagen Metro. Latterly Hughie worked on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) Thames Tunnel, the London Kings Cross Station redevelopment, and Contract 305 of the Crossrail Project.
In summary, we all have worked with Hughie at some stage and undoubtedly remember him.
Thinking about Hughie, I tend to remember best the one to one discussions that we had. They were always polite but forceful in his strong low tones, and always sensible and well considered. If it wasn't a discussion about a fair bonus rate, it was a serious concern for a safety issue.
When there was a crowd of people around, Hughie tended to prefer to remain in the background, watching and listening to everything. This was especially so when the ladies were present. There were always plenty of other people around who liked to talk. Having said that, we all know about nights when Hughie did get a little raucous!
We all know who the best pit bosses were, and who always achieved the pace for others to try and follow. Hughie was always quietly proud to be one of those. His gangs hold a few records around the world, and there are many from afar who would like to be remembered for having known Hughie - people who have tremendous respect for Hughie and owe so much for what they learnt from him.
The tunneling world has lost a highly respected colleague.