An Appreciation: Dorothy (Dorrie) Donaldson


DORRIE DONALDSON died aged 96 years, on September 4th. During the 1950s she was described by The Irish Timesas “among the best and most versatile of contemporary Irish sportswomen”. At that time she had announced her retirement from international badminton, having previously retired from international hockey.

Born in Waterford in 1915, as Dorothy Cunningham Brown, her precocious sporting ability became evident as a pupil at the Newton School, Waterford. She excelled at hockey, badminton, swimming and gymnastics. Her representative career in hockey began in 1928 when she was chosen to play in goal for the Munster Junior team. Two years later she joined the Munster Senior team and kept her position on that side for the seven years.

In 1936 she went to Scarborough College, Yorkshire to study Physical Education (PE). After qualifying in 1937, she was appointed PE teacher at Oaklands Girls’ School, Ilkley, Yorkshire. She joined the local hockey club, was selected for the women’s first team, and played for the Yorkshire County Women’s team against Lancashire. She was outstanding in that game and impressed the English selectors so much that they invited her to take part in trials for the English Women’s hockey team. However, Dorrie, being an Irish citizen, had to decline.

Returning to Ireland in 1938, she regained her position on the Munster Senior team and played that year and the next. She also captained the South East Team in 1939, playing at centre half.

In 1941 Dorrie married Basil Donaldson, a banker, who was also a keen sportsman. They moved to Dublin where she joined the Pembroke Wanderers Club. She received full international honours in 1941 and continued to play for Ireland until 1947, with the exception of the 1942 season, when her first son was born.

After the birth of her second son, in 1948, Dorrie retired from representative hockey. A sportswriter commented, “She will be remembered as one of the finest full-backs ever to have worn Irish colours”.

Dorrie was also an outstanding badminton player. At the age of 16 she reached the final of the singles in the 1931 Munster Badminton Championship. She was runner-up that year but became champion the following year and successfully defended her title the next one when she also won the mixed doubles title, partnered by Joe Brown, her brother, who was to become a well-known golf international. In 1934 she was again the Munster singles champion and also the mixed doubles champion, this time partnered by Fred South.

Over the following 15 years Dorrie concentrated on hockey, however, when she returned to competitive badminton in 1949 she won the Irish women’s singles championship and mixed doubles championship – in partnership with Ireland’s number one player, Frank Peard. She was selected for the Irish international team to play against Scotland that year and held her place until 1957. Throughout this period she played competitively for the Ailesbury Badminton Club which showed its appreciation by appointing her an honorary life member.

Dorrie’s prowess as a sportswoman also included golf. In 1936, she was a member of the Waterford county team that played Kilkenny county in the semi-final of the Midland Trophy.

She took up golf again in the late 1950s, joining Grange Golf Club, Dublin and in a relatively short time had a single figure handicap. Ever the keen competitor, she was soon a member of the Grange Golf Club team, playing in the Irish Women’s Senior Cup (Leinster section).

Dorrie was involved in many memorable matches for Grange and won a plethora of club competitions. A memory she especially cherished was winning the Grange Golf Club President’s Prize in June 1993 at the age of 78, with a net score of 67. She was very proud when, in 1997, Grange elected her an honorary associate member. She continued to play until 1999 when Basil became ill and she devoted herself to caring for him at home. He died two years later.

With Dorrie Donaldson’s death Ireland has lost a naturally gifted sportswoman who had an indomitable spirit and was a fierce competitor.

She is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.