Peter McDonnell

Peter McDonnell

Age: 21

Peter McDonnell was the youngest of four children. He was described at the Hillsborough inquests as 'an outgoing, fun-loving person', who enjoyed attending concerts, as well as playing and watching football.

His sister, Evelyn Mills, told the court: "As the baby of the family, he was spoiled by our parents and our siblings. He was cherished and, even at the age of 21, when he died, Peter was still fondly known as 'our baby'."

Portrait by his sister Evelyn Mills

Peter McDonnell was born on February 9, 1968. He was the youngest of four children, namely Patricia, Evelyn and Gerard, born to Gerard and Lillian McDonnell.

He was cherished and, even at the age of 21, when he died, Peter was still fondly known as 'our baby'.

He was always an inquisitive child, who loved to learn. He never played with toys, just tools. He spent many weekends and summer holidays at the Liverpool museum, learning about dinosaurs and fossils, to the amusement of his siblings, as he felt it necessary to share all the facts that he had learned.

As the baby of the family, he was spoiled by our parents and our siblings. He would fall asleep on the couch and get carried to bed because he didn't like to be on his own.

He would often find his way into the end of somebody else's bed in the middle of the night, even up to the age of 14.

The house was always well stocked with his favourite things - Corn Flakes, Kit Kats, bacon, mushrooms - a habit that proved hard for our mother to break, even after his death.

As a child, Peter went to St Finbar's Nursery School and on to St Francis of Assisi Primary School and then on to St John Almond Secondary School. It was at school that he became interested in sports, swimming and playing football.

He used to play with his brother Gerard for Vale FC, a local team. Before joining Vale FC, he played for a team in Garston. He also played for his school team.

Peter went to his first football game with his cousin, John Cooper, who was a steward at Liverpool. As we could not afford to pay for tickets, he went to quite a few games with John.

He even went to Wembley with him one year. When he was 19, John told him he could be his second in command on the coach.

Peter played football with our brother, Gerard, for the local team, which still holds an annual cup game in his memory and awards the Peter McDonnell Cup at their presentation evenings.

Peter supported Everton until the age of 11, when he changed teams to Liverpool Football Club because of Gerry.

When he started going to watch football matches by himself, he used to go with one of his best friends, Paul, who was also an Everton supporter. This meant that they went to both Everton and Liverpool games together, supporting each other.

His teachers commented that he was always a pleasant and willing student who was good with his hands. This was evident at home as he regularly took things to bits and put them back together.

Gerard saved up for a watch once and, after he bought it, one day he came home from work to find that Peter had taken it apart. He told him he just wanted to see what it was like inside and he would put it back together.

Even until the day he died, he was still taking things apart. There is still a Walkman that remains in pieces at our home.

His passion was making things and building. He went to Old Swan Technical College and left with a City and Guilds Foundation in construction, studying industrial, social and environmental studies, industrial skills and practices, technology and science and communication studies.

He also completed a Youth Training Scheme at Riversdale College, learning bricklaying, tiling, plastering and joinery.

After qualifying, Peter worked for several local builders and also travelled to South Wales to gain some building experience with his uncle. He aspired to have his own business and was eager to learn to drive so that he could get a van.

I gave him an IOU for driving lessons towards his 21st birthday present. He never got to use it.

As work dried up during the recession, he made his way to London to try to find employment. He got very homesick and would return home to visit, regaling stories of what London was like and how there were homeless people living in Euston Station.

On one such visit he returned to London with several old coats to give to the homeless as he was passing through the station. He was away from home for around six months and, while working in Southend-on-Sea, his friend was injured and they both returned home.

At the time of his death, he had just secured a contract with Cruden Building & Construction, where Peter was employed at the time of his death.

Peter was an outgoing, fun-loving person who always had lots of friends. He enjoyed socialising, going to the cinema, fishing, playing basketball and he loved music and was always going to see live bands.

One of his favourite artists of the time was Peter Gabriel and he saved up to go and see him in concert.

You knew when Peter was in the house. He was always lively and full of fun. He did impressions and joked about everything. He made everyone laugh.

He was very close to his nieces. My daughter, Gemma, and I remained at the family home until Gemma was four years old before moving across the road, and Peter would take her to nursery and look after her for me while I was at work.

He was really protective of her and she took his death very badly.

He was also godfather to Patricia's daughter, Rachel. I remember Rachel was terrified of bare feet and every weekend at our house Peter would come down the stairs with no shoes on and she would scream.

He used to tease her, but she was scared stiff. She still says that she can hear his feet coming down the stairs to this day.

Every Saturday, Patricia would bring her three daughters to visit and Peter would play games with his nieces, having tea parties and giving piggyback rides.

After his death, Peter has gone on to have nephews and great-nephews.

Peter made a mark on people wherever he went. After he died, the house was never empty. Friends and neighbours came to pay their respects and stayed even after we had retired for the night. He was loved and he is severely missed. 

 

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