Hangs up overalls after 46 years in Letterkenny company

BONNAR Engineering Limited, based in the heart of Letterkenny, has bid a fond farewell to one of its longest serving employees who has has retired after more than 46 years working with the business.
John Nesbitt, who lives in Figart, Raphoe, hung up his overalls having worked in the Neil T Blaney Road site since the company relocated from Oldtown and throughout its growth to becoming one of the largest structural steelworks in the North West.
John, a father of three and an avid cyclist, joined Bonnar Engineering as an apprentice welder in January 1975.
“I was nineteen. After a couple of years Patrick took off for a few days and he asked me to look after the place and I suppose the rest is history. I’ve been foreman ever since,” he explained.
Married to Carole, the couple have three children Darren, David and Susan and three grand daughters.
“I was raising a young family at the time so job security was important but the friends I made over the years is the main reason for staying with the company for so long. There was always a good atmosphere in the place and they treated me like family,” John said.
“It is amazing to see how the company grew over the years and went from manufacturing gates and railings for houses around Letterkenny to what it is today,” he added.
Team members like John Nesbitt are the backbone of the business which has seen significant expansion in 1982, and in 1998 with a new 30,000 square foot premises at its current location.
“Over the years I’ve felt that I’ve been more part of the Bonnar family than a colleague. I worked with both Joe and Patrick and all Patrick’s family are like my own siblings. I grew up with them all. Anthony is now running the place and his own children, Tanya and Adam, are also working there. It’s a real family oriented business.
“I’ve been driving over and back the road from Raphoe to work in Letterkenny all these years and yet it never really felt like work. Every morning I went in I tried to be cheerful and happy and speak to everyone. We all got on really well,” he said.
Over the years, John and the team have worked on the fabrication and erection of structural steelwork, in places like the former Fruit of the Loom factory in Buncrana and the renovation of the Oatfield Sweet factory premises in Letterkenny to warehouses for fish processing plants in Killybegs.
Aldi and Lidl,Currys PC World, Letterkenny and the Riverside Retail and Office Park, also in Letterkenny, are just a few of the other buildings erected by Bonnar Engineering.
“We’ve also done a lot of fish cages which have been exported to Malta, Cyprus and all over the world while we’ve been kept busy recently with Allpipe in Derry. It’s been one of our biggest ever projects involving 1,500 ton of steel. Most other big projects before that would have involved 2, 3 or 400 ton of steel,” he said.
“It’s interesting work. At the start of every project it’s a huge big task but once you’re half way through it becomes less and less daunting and, eventually, you get finished and move on to the next one,” he added.
In his retirement, John looks forward to having more time to pursue his passion for cycling.
“I enjoy the freedom of the bicycle – going at my own pace and seeing the countryside,” he said.
This week, John and Carole, are exploring the North West coast in their caravan.
“We’re in Bushmills today so I might just celebrate with a wee Bush later on,” he laughed.
“Over the years, I’ve met people with long faces, short faces and some with headaches but I’ve always tried to acknowledge them all. Communication is important and I like to say good morning to everyone. I always made that part of my day and I don’t think it did anyone any harm,” he said.

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