A barrister, Jack Donnelly was a man of sharp intellect, but his fiery Irish temperament led to may clashes with his fellow aldermen. Born in Wagga Wagga, he was educated at Marist Brothers Darlinghurst and entered the Office of Public Trustee during the depression years, supporting not only his parents but also his wife’s mother’s family. During World War II he volunteered for the AIF and served in the Armoured Division. After the War Jack gained a law degree through Sydney University, which assisted his advancement in the Office of Public Trustee, being appointed as Deputy Public Trustee of NSW in July 1972.
Donnelly served as an alderman on Willoughby Council for 21 years, being elected as mayor from 1980 to 1982, but he declined to stand in the September 1991 election when his running mate and long-time supporter Ald JAR Belfour pulled out of the contest. He was a strong pro-development advocate and took great pride in the development of the Chatswood business district as a leading retail centre in Sydney. Sport was one of Jack’s great loves and he had played first grade for Gordon Rugby Club and was a member of the Mona Vale and Dee Why Surf Clubs. Accordingly, his agenda was the establishment of playing fields and street beautification programs in Willoughby, but he also assisted migrants to settle in the community. Jack was a keen gardener and the lawns at his property in Chatswood were well-known known for their consistently well-manicured appearance.