Danny O’Donnell: a lovely man, friend and comrade

✭ Obituary

'The other Daniel O’Donnell': a fearless fighter against all forms of injustice, quite capable of tearing councillors and MSPs to shreds in public meetings when they’d let people down, and a passionate advocate of socialism. (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Richie Venton

· The world has lost a chunk of its warmth and humanity with the recent death of dear friend and long time comrade, Danny O’Donnell.

Anyone who ever met Danny, regardless of their age, came away with one main, lasting impression: a lovely man.

He would charm people, total strangers included, not in the false manner of a dodgy salesman, but with his warmth and sincerity; a glimpse of the fact he profoundly cared about people.

He was one of the most regular and committed street campaigners the SSP has had over the many years, for instance travelling with me all round Glasgow, sometimes Ayrshire, frequently Coatbridge, to do SSP street stalls, leaflet round doors, join workers’ demos and picket lines.

His humanity shone out, as he joked and chatted with children, parents and pensioners alike, persuading them of the issue we were fighting for, but with a human touch few could match. He was fearless in talking to people on the street, engaging with them, at bottom because he cared for people.

It also has to be said that on most such occasions, the rest of us would at some point suddenly notice Danny had disappeared for a spell; it was always suspected in search of the nearest bookies for a flutter on the horses.

But nobody could ever complain, especially as Danny was notorious for always being early, outrageously early, for every street stall and every form of activity—a habit far too rare in socialist circles!

He stood as an SSP candidate on numerous occasions, and always did us proud. Not because he had personal ambitions to become a councillor or MSP, quite the opposite.

Several times over the years I spent hours with him persuading him he was easily the best candidate; he was the mirror opposite to those who provoke the thought that ‘anyone keen to be a candidate should be banned from being one’!

Given his formal forename, Daniel, it also allowed me to indulge in dodgy puns on election leaflets, calling on people to ‘Vote Daniel O’Donnell Number One’.

Danny had Donegal roots in his large family, and took in good humour the wisecracks about him being the other Daniel O’Donnell, the insufferable crooner, as we introduced him to people; in fact, he often played along with the innocent deceit himself.

His warmth and good humour never deserted him, and it was infectious, making us all feel better in his company.

Dedicated activist
When Danny was part of a delegation from the SSP to Cuba, he couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, but the humanity that oozed out of the man meant the Cubans loved him. The other comrades on the delegation dubbed Danny the Minister for Non-Verbal Communication!

However, Danny was a lot, lot more than a warm, lovely man. He was a fearless fighter against all forms of injustice, quite capable of tearing councillors and MSPs to shreds in public meetings when they’d let people down, and a passionate advocate of socialism and the SSP.

He was a powerful public speaker, because he meant it. He had strong, deep roots in the working class of the East End of Glasgow, especially where he lived in Carntyne.

Danny was a dedicated activist in his own community, as well as being a devoted, loyal stalwart in the SSP, never faltering in his commitments. He fought tirelessly for improvements in people’s lives as a Community Council member.

He was an unpaid volunteer with the local Credit Union, never failing to ensure people most in need of help had access to the Union, even when it meant him sacrificing weekends and other commitments.

He was one of the best working class political representatives that the voters never elected.

As a younger man, he earned his crust in the harsh world of building sites, which probably helped make him a heavy drinker, but with the dedication and determination that were hallmarks of the man, he recently celebrated 42 years sober, and was an irreplaceable friend and support to countless others in AA.

Danny carried himself with a certain style. When he wasn’t wearing a beret, he often sported a white straw hat.

When accompanied by the white or cream linen suits he often wore at campaigning activity, he would give his big, warm smile as I taunted him with the name Hannibal Lecter—for the resemblance I always spotted with that scene at the end of the film, when Lecter heads off through the market as he’s “having a friend for tea”.

Danny has departed us far too early, aged only 74. He has left behind many lasting memories and changed many people for the better. His passions for socialism, the SSP, the working class, and Celtic, rubbed off on those he met. He will never be forgotten, always sorely missed.

Our hearts go out to Liz and the wider family. In words I wouldn’t normally use, but which Danny always signed off a conversation with—Goodbye, dear friend and comrade, and God Bless.

· Danny’s funeral is on Tuesday 3 August at 12 noon, at St Bernadette’s, 361 Carntyne Road, Glasgow

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