Fergal McGirl - Conservation architect dublin

leo mcgirl rip and how building has changed

by fmgarchitects.


My father Leo McGirl died peacefully last month after several years of illness. Leo was a building contractor (carpenter by trade). He was employed in Dublin in the 1960s and worked on among other things the bases of the Pigeon House/Poolbeg chimneys. Like many others of his generation, the farming skills from a small landholding in Leitrim translated to construction and groundworks. He later set up his own contracting firm working mainly on commercial projects in Dublin during the 70s and 80s including the Kiltiernan sports hotel, PMPA insurance offices Wolfe Tone Street, Coolock industrial estate, office buildings in Dame Street (now the Mercantile Hotel) and Drury Street and Power City in Finglas.

The country entered a recession around 1982 and I remember he was less busy until he began working on his own housing projects in Ratoath, Co. Meath from 1993 onwards. Leo saw a lot of change in the industry in his time. The black and white photograph above is him on site at the Drogheda Lodge Shopping Centre in Finglas in the early 80s which I remember as a child sometimes following him around the site. They workers work blazers and soft caps at the time, a night watchman was employed and messages were relayed through his wife Rose at the home landline (as it often took a long time to have a site telephone installed). Leo witnessed the industry change from where the main contractor employed most of the trades directly (for example casement windows were fabricated in-house based on architects details by a directly employed carpenter) to the current subcontracting/contracts management system.

Our careers overlapped for a few years in the mid 90s when I graduated from DIT and provided architectural input to some of the housing schemes he was working on. One project, the Moatlands housing scheme in Ratoath featured in the RIAI “The New Housing” book in 2002 which looked at how better density schemes could be achieved. May he rest in peace.

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