It may not sound like the most glamorous work, but as Durban’s City Engineer for 16 years, Don Macleod, gave more to our city than you can ever imagine! Don spent a good many of his working years focusing on the processing of sewage, and was responsible for the construction of Durban’s first sewage treatment plants. In later years Don also saw to it that sewage systems were installed in the poorer communities, which up until then had been largely neglected.
Don MacLeod was born in January 1928 in Johannesburg and grew up in Kimberley, where he went to school. He was an outstanding scholar and skipped years when at school and matriculated when he was just 16. He received 6 As and one B. The B was for Geography, which he only started studying in his matric year. He then went to Natal University (now the University of KwaZulu-Natal) and studied civil engineering and was awarded his degree at the age of 19.
Don Macleod was the only person to be elected as the President of both the South African Institution of Engineering and the Southern African Institution of Municipal Engineering. He presented many papers at conferences, both locally and internationally – particularly on his work on undersea sewer outfalls.
Life in Durban
Macleod joined the Durban Corporation and worked in municipal government his whole life. He broke service in the 1960s to join what was called the Department of Special Works, on contract where he was responsible for the planning and construction of Durban’s first four sewerage treatment works. He also saw many suburbs of Durban get their first sewer connections and move off septic tanks. He was the City Engineer of Durban, until he retired in 1992.
People still refer to the impact that he had on municipal engineering in South Africa, particularly in terms of training young engineers, his professionalism and his expert knowledge concerning sewage treatment and its disposal. He also gave a lot back to the profession as a council member and later president of the two institutions mentioned above. His immediate legacy can be seen through his son Neil MacLeod who became an engineer of note and later the Head for the Water & Sanitation Unit in eThekwini Municipality.
Don Macleod spent his last years living with his wife in a retirement complex in Durban North, before passing away in 2017.