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 A’s and one B. The B was for Geography, which he only started studying in his matric year. He then went to Natal University and studied civil engineering and had his degree at the age of 19 (it is a 4 year degree).
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. He was the one who planned and constructed Durban’s first four sewerage treatment.
Don Macleod joined the Durban Corporation and worked in municipal government his whole life. He broke service in the 1960’s to join what was called the Department of Special Works, on contract. There he was responsible for the planning and construction of Durban’s first four sewerage treatment works (there had been none before that and sewage was not treated properly until then) He also saw many suburbs of Durban get their first sewer connections and move off septic tanks. For about 16 years 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 related to the training of young engineers, his professionalism and his expert knowledge concerning sewage treatment and disposal. He also gave a lot back to the profession as a Council member and later President of the two institutions mentioned above. Part of his legendary work also focused on the implementation of these sewage systems in the black communities. His immediate legacy can be seen through his son Neil MacLeod who became an engineer of note and later becoming the Head for the Water & Sanitation Unit in eThekwini Municipality.
Don Macleod is now 87 and is living with his wife in a retirement complex in Durban North.