McGrath, Raymond Herbert (1903–77), architect, was born 7 March 1903 in Gladesville, near Sydney, Australia, second child among two sons and one daughter of Herbert Edgar McGrath, hospital clerk, and Edith Mary McGrath (née Sorrell). He had Irish ancestry on both sides of his family: his maternal grandmother, Margaret Jane Bell, was the daughter of a presbyterian immigrant from Co. Tyrone, while his paternal grandfather, John McGrath, came from Bagenalstown, Co. Carlow. Baptised an Anglican, he was educated at Paramatta North public school, from where he won a high-school bursary to Fort St. high school in Sydney. Interested in both art and literature from an early age, in 1921 he enrolled in the arts faculty of Sydney University, with the intention of becoming a journalist. Concentrating initially on literature, he wrote for and edited the university journal Hermes and won a number of prizes for his writings. At the same time he continued to study painting at Julian Ashton's art school in Sydney and the Dattilo Rubbo school, and in 1923 transferred to the university's school of architecture, graduating in 1926 with a first-class honours degree, for which he was awarded the university medal for most distinguished candidate and the William Charles Wentworth travelling fellowship for postgraduate study in Europe. Before leaving Australia he designed his only building there, the war memorial at Callan Park hospital.
Moving to London to pursue postgraduate work, he developed a close friendship with the Cambridge architecture lecturer Mansfield Duval Forbes, who helped him secure a research studentship at Clare College, Cambridge, during which he was involved in the restoration of Finella House, Cambridge. His first major commission came in Nov. 1930 when he was appointed decoration consultant to the BBC, and was involved in designing the interior of Broadcasting House at Portland Place. The only house he designed in England was St Ann's Hill, Chertsey, Surrey, later describing its innovative design as ‘a big cheese, with a slice out for the sunlight to enter the whole house’ (O'Donovan, 171). The largest commission he received in England was in 1938 for the Aspro factory at Slough. Unfortunately, building was suspended at the outbreak of the war and he was never paid his full fee. The war also led to a general cessation in architectural commissions, and – having produced twelve drawings of aircraft production for the war artists’ advisory committee – he took up the post of senior architect with the office of public works in Dublin in May 1940, becoming its principal architect in 1948.
His first major work for the OPW was the decoration of the interior of Áras an Uachtaráin, and after a fire in the state apartments at Dublin castle (January 1941) he took charge of the team responsible for their restoration. Among his most innovative works for the OPW were carpets designed for Irish embassies in London, Washington, Paris, Rome, the Vatican, and Ottawa, the headquarters of the Department of External Affairs in Iveagh House, and the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva. In 1950 he designed the new cenotaph on Leinster Lawn. However, his more ambitious projects never came to fruition, including the Kennedy memorial concert hall, a crescent of buildings to enlarge and modernise Dublin castle, and his design for the new RTÉ studios at Montrose, the commission for which went to his greatest professional rival, Michael Scott (qv). After his retirement from the OPW in 1968 he went into private practice in Dublin. The only house he designed in Ireland was ‘Southwood’, Carrickmines, Co. Dublin, home of the Mitchell family of wine merchants. A proponent of the modernist style, he was considered a particularly fine draughtsman and paid much attention to interiors. He was also an accomplished landscape artist and woodcarver.
He was closely associated with the RHA as a regular exhibitor, associate (1949), member (1967), professor of architecture (1968), president (1977), and designer of the RHA's Gallagher gallery in the 1970s. In 1961 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists, and in 1973 was founder and first president of the Society of Designers in Ireland. His principal publications were Twentieth century houses in basic English (1934) and Glass in architecture and decoration, written with his brother-in-law A. C. Frost (1937). A planned life of Le Corbusier was never completed.
He married (20 June 1930) in London Mary Catherine Crozier of Dallas, Texas, third child of Norman Robert Crozier, a former professor of Latin at Texas University and superintendent of schools in Dallas, and Anne Stark Gardener. They had one son and one daughter and lived at Somerton Lodge, Rochestown Ave, Dublin. Their daughter, Jenny, married the journalist Donal O'Donovan, son of former IRA director of chemicals James L. O'Donovan (qv). Raymond McGrath died of cancer of the bile duct 2 December 1977 at his home. He left an estate of £140,684. His papers and drawings are in the Irish Architectural Archive. A catalogue of his works is in Donal O'Donovan's biography.