(Celebrate the Legacy by wearing green!)

“When I give people bread, they call me a Saint. When I ask why people do not have bread, they call me a terrorist.” Fr Laurence ‘Larry’ McDonnell

This is the conundrum that has defined Larry throughout his Missionary life. It is the same conundrum that characterises the lives of many that have gone through struggle for liberation.

This is a book that chronicles the work of the Salesians and, in particular, that of Fr Larry, about how they shaped the lives of boys that went through their hands. It also brings out his contribution towards the liberations of South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. It also takes the story way back to the Potato Famine of Ireland, where most of these Priests hail, drawing a parallel between the liberation experiences of Ireland and South Africa, from the same colonial master – the British. It also links this background with the relationship that Ireland had with President JFK and how this has influenced their partiality to civil liberties, the worth of human dignity, the underlying need to protect vulnerable boys and the resistance against unjust authority, in general.

He was born into a struggle for Irish liberation, he lived for the liberation of the Southern region and is prepared to die in it, through Faith.

Come and experience the unearthing of yet another jewel on the list of unsung heroes, in the liberation of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. This is a man who, through Ministry, gave the peoples of the Southern African region a refuge to ply their trades as well enjoy much sought after alternate education.

Someone who mentored many boys who now are outstanding leaders in their various societies across the world. This is a man that tutored and mentored many, amongst which is none other than the Founder of Netflix, Wilmot Reed Hastings Jr. who after joining the Peace Corps came to teach Mathematics at Salesian in Manzini from 1983 to 1985.


Larry is defined and revered for many life changing characteristics, such as:

    • Son of an IRA fighter

    • Educationist with a heart

    • Self-styled missionary

    • Embodiment of the Salesian spirit of Manzini

    • Liberator

    • Father

    • Mentor

    • Irish-fiercely Irish, the list is endless.

This is how he is viewed by both ordinary and iconic individuals globally:

“This is another Trevor Huddleston story.” Terry Morris, Pan Macmillan

“A real Champion and true hero. You cannot measure the knowledge that this man has imparted to everyone he has touched.” Butler Matthew, Salesian Old Boy

“Witty, a brilliant mind, charming with the most hilarious comebacks.” Leepile Ann, CEO, ABSA Asset Management

“My life influencer … an excellent Priest and a great man.” Mabilisa Vusi VVO, Former Salesian Old Boy and Economist Central Bank of Swaziland

“Amongst all the people I have come across in my life, since I was young, he was the most able and capable manager I have come across. I am still yet to come across someone like him. His way of approach was one of the most admirable. He is exactly what management is all about. He knew every boy by name. He knew their behaviour. He did not rely on Teachers. He had his finger on the pulse of that School.” Mthembu Pat, Chairman, Utho Capital

“I know Fr McDonnel very well. He was instrumental during my early days in Swaziland. I used to stay at House Number 1, with Bra Stan. That was a very important hideout.” Mokoape General Keith, General SANDF and Luthuli in Silver Awardee

Inyoni… we shared his office. I was a regular. Smoking, fights and giving teachers hell. One day he told me he was tired of beating me [up], I must leave his office. That was the worst punishment.” Mkhize Victor, Salesian Old Boy

“He is still alive? Indeed one of a kind. Passionate about the well-being of the boy child.” Nhlapho Josephilda, St Theresa’s Old Girl

“One of a kind.” Smith Rosie, Manzini resident

Book blurb

Larry – Simply Larry tells the story of Fr Larry McDonnell, an inspiring Irish Salesian Priest and the Headmaster of Salesian High School in Manzini, Swaziland. For more than two decades, Larry was instrumental in the growth and development of hundreds of Swazi boys, as well as many from South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe who sought refuge in Swaziland during the apartheid era. Many of the boys whose lives he touched, directly and indirectly, are now prominent policy, political and business leaders in South Africa and the region. He also played a crucial, though largely unsung, role in the liberation of South Africa. Salesian was also an academic refuge for many South African, Namibian and Zimbabwean teachers. At various times the School harboured operatives of uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), Swapo and the PAC such as Stanley Mabizela and General Keith Mokoape of MK – a most recent Luthuli Awardee in Silver, both ANC; Arthur Pickering of Swapo as well as Rosette ‘RB’ Nziba and Dini Sobukwe of the PAC.

The key period covered in this account is from 1970, when Larry arrived at the School, to the mid-1990s, following his tenure as Headmaster and his retirement to technical education. As a deeply religious person, caught up in struggle politics while trying to give the boys, in his care, the best possible start in life, Larry’s roots in the Irish struggle for liberation from British rule and in the trauma of the 19th-century Potato Crisis, gave him an acute consciousness of South Africa’s liberation process. The book explores the parallels between the Irish, South African and Swazi histories, covering aspects of education, family, religion, culture, governance as well as politics.

Both tribute and portrait, the book takes the form of a wide-ranging conversation, drawing on interviews with, and the recollections of, a range of participants – fellow Salesian Priests, former Teachers, Salesian Old Boys and Family members – to build a richly detailed mosaic that illustrates the bedrock foundational principles and themes by which Larry has lived his illustrious life.

His impact influence respects no borders.

How to order book

Catholic Centre, Manzini, Swaziland


On behalf of NLSA and NUMBER 43 FOUNDATION

28th August 2018 |

Launch dates





Manzini (Salesian Chapel)



Manzini (Cathedral/Lutheran)



Johannesburg (Emoyeni)




    8-9 Oct 


Pretoria (Heritage Restaurant)



Cape Town

1-2 Nov