Herbert Thomas O’Neill (1875-1955)
Mary Jane Thompson

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Herbert Thomas O’Neill (known as Herb) was the second youngest of twelve children of Patrick O’Neill & Elizabeth Lulham. He was born in Bulahdelah on 22 Jan 1875. He married Mary Jane Thompson at Wauchope NSW in 1899. Mary Jane was born on 15 Apr 1879 in Lismore, one of John Thompson and Mary Woodward’s children.

Herb and Mary lived in Wingham for some years, where Herb was the licensee of the Australia Hotel. In 1908 he was awarded a contract for the conveyance of mail between Taree and Port Macquarie (The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 02 May 1908). Two months later he leased the Australia Hotel in Wingham, as described in The Gloucester Advocate, Sat 4 Jul 1908:

Mr. Wm. Fotheringham has leased the premises and good-will of the Australian Hotel, Wingham, to Mr. Herbert O’Neill, who will take possession early this month.

Also from The Macleay Chronicle on Wed 13 Jul 1910:

A destructive fire occurred at the rear of Mr. H. O’Neill’s Australia Hotel, Wingham, the stables and outhouses being reduced to a heap of ashes.

Herb’s brother Alf O’Neill worked as a barman for Herb at the time, and both were involved in a couple of court cases brought by an over-jealous policeman, Constable Caldwell.

The first case sought clarification of the law at the time that only travellers could obtain a drink during prohibited hours. WHEN IS A TRAVELLER NOT A TRAVELLER? appeared in The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer on Fri 16 Mar 1917; it is long and can be read separately here.

The second case came just a couple of months later. Herb as licensee was charged with providing drinks to people who, he argued (unsuccessfully), were travellers. The report appeared in The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer on Fri 11 May 1917; it too is long and can be read separately here.

There is a reference in the Wellington Times, Thu 10 Sep 1908, to a pub in Gundy owned by one of Herb’s sisters (Mary Jane O’Neill) in what is possibly a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the derivation of a then-common saying:


The above is an oft-repeated expression, but how many know its origin? Here it is:- Gundy is a snug little hamlet eleven miles east of Scone, which is about two hundred miles from Sydney. In the distant past a teetotal fanatic, of peripatetic proclivities and great oratorical powers, struck Gundy, and lectured on the evil of drink. The only hotel there (now owned by a sister of Mr. Herb O’Neill, of the Australian Hotel, Wingham) was ever a favourite and after a visit there the men rolled up to the lecture on prohibition, which ended “And then you can shut up every public-house in the country.” Dead silence. Then a whiskered farmer queried, “D’yer mean to close up our pub, mister?” whilst the audience breathed hard. “Precisely,” answered the enthused lecturer. “Be dashed!” said the pained agriculturist, “that’s no good to Gundy!” And it wasn’t. Gundy still has its hotel, and Australia is richer by an imperishable phrase.

Then, in the Sat 30 Dec 1916 edition of The Northern Champion, Herb gives evidence in a trial against Thomas Welsh for assault occasioning actual bodily harm that occurred in the hotel during a fight over a racing debt and a slur against his wife made by one David Cowan. The report is very long, and we have picked out the testimony that Herb delivered:

Herbert Thomas O’Neill (sworn) deposed:-

To Mr. Cowan: I am an hotelkeeper and reside at Wingham. I remember 13th instant being in the telephone room of my hotel. I heard a sound in the. room opposite – the old dining room. I went into the room at the door opposite the telephone room. I think the door was shut. When I went in I saw Thomas Welsh and Cowan. Cowan was on my right hand sitting down against the wall. I think Cowan’s head was resting against the wall. Welsh was standing on the left of me opposite to you against the door. He said that you said his wife was a liar. He said he was sorry he had caused a row in the house. I don’t remember him saying anything to you. In the first place I spoke to Welsh. I carried you into the billiard room and placed you on a seat. You were stupid. I took you in and ordered someone to get some water. I don’t remember what you told me in the bedroom.

To Mr. Abigail: Welsh said “I’ve been coming to your house for years and never made a row in it yet.” I said words to this effect:- “If you say stop I’ll stop.” I went in the lower door near the billiard room. Mr. Cowan was sitting on the floor. -There was no chair between him and the table. I do not recognise the chair I produced. In going in I walked between the two of them. I lifted Cowan up and assisted him into the billiard room and sat him down. I’ve known Welsh for about five or six years. He has always behaved well in my house.

To Mr. Cowan: I saw the chair on the table as I picked you up. To the best of my knowledge on the table straight opposite you near the back verandah. There is a passage-way in between the two tables. That class of chair could be in that room. …

Herbert Thomas O’Neill (recalled) deposed: The only persons who were in the telephone room (sometimes called the sewing room) between 3.30 and the time I rushed out into the old dining room and saw Mr. Cowan on the floor were myself, James Latimore, Tammy Pollock and, part of the time, George Crittenden. That was about 5.30 that I rushed out. Neither Welsh, John Martin nor Richards were in that room at all during that time. I did not leave that room during the whole time from 3.30 on. I was in that room when I heard the noise.

To Mr. Abigail: -I am not prepared to say Welsh was not in the hotel. I say he was not in the telephone room during that time. I was in that telephone room when the noise took place. I remember Martin coming in from branding. He did not come to that room. Constable Fleming came out a little while ago with a message from the P.M. for me not to go as I was wanted to give evidence again. I did not know what I was wanted for.

This closed the case.

Mr. Abigail addressed the Bench. The P.M., without calling on Mr. Cowan, committed Welsh to stand his trial at the next Quarter Sessions to be held In Taree in March next.

Mr. Abigail asked for light bail as accused was a married man living in the district. There was no opposition by Mr. Cowan. Bail was allowed – self in £30 and one surety in £30.

The case lasted from 10 a.m. till nearly 6 p.m. The court was crowded throughout.

During the testimony of others, it is clear that Herb had by then branched into cattle; a Mr. Abigail had remarked: “I was at the cattle sale at Wingham that day, and afterwards was branding stock for Mr. Herb. O’Neill.”

On Sat 12 Jan 1918 The Northern Champion carried a very long report of an accusation of theft by one Hubert Allan of a steer belonging to Herb. This was heard in the Taree Police Court; the report is available in a separate window by clicking here. In that report it is clear that Herb had not brought this action, indeed spoke in favour of the defendant:

Herbert O’Neill (sworn) stated:- I am an hotelkeeper [at Wingham and] attended a sale at Kolodong … last and bought five poddies. I don’t know if they were branded or not branded. I gave Stace and Hoffman some instructions at midday last Sunday. I have seen a steer in this court-house yard this morning. I believe the calf to be one of those I bought, at the Kolodong sale. I did not see the calf from the day I bought it until last Saturday. I saw the calf being driven along the Wingham-Taree road last Saturday. William Nicholson was driving it along the road.

To Mr. Martin: I buy cattle myself. I know Mr. Allan pretty well. I have known him for years. Allan is a well-known cattle dealer. I have always found him in anything I have had to do with him – honest. I never did think so, and don’t think he would do anything like stealing an animal. I think it would be natural and honest for the defendant to tell the drover to put the steer in his paddock, thinking it was his own. I did not know Allan had lost a steer. I told Hoffman and Stace to go and see Allan, and if the steer was mine to get it and put it in the paddock. I told them to see the steer first. Gollan told me he had told Allan and Nicholson about some strange cows and a spotted steer on the road near Wingham, and that Allan had said he had lost a spotted steer; and Allan had asked him (Gollan) to put it in a paddock at Wingham until he came up. What Allan had asked Gollan to do was a common thing among cattle dealers. I thought it was an honest mistake that had been made. I have not seen Allan until this morning.

The subsequent trial before a judge was reported on Sat 16 Mar 1918 in The Northern Champion.It lasted just minutes:


Hubert Allan, on bail, appeared on an alleged charge of stealing on January 6, one steer, the property of Herbert O’Neill, Wingham; and on a second charge of feloniously having in his possession the same beast, knowing it to be stolen.

Allan pleaded not guilty, and was defended by Mr. L. O. Martin.

After the jury has been sworn the Crown Prosecutor outlined the case. When he had finished the witness Nicholson was put in the box, and he deposed to having gone up Wingham way to look for a young beast belonging to Mr. Allan, and, believing that he had found the right one, drove it down and put it in Mr. Allan’s paddock. Never saw Allan till next morning, and he had not told him that he put the steer in. Mr. O’Neill passed him on the road when he was driving the animal. (The evidence in full in the case was published after the case was heard at the police court.)

His Honor said he did not see the necessity for hearing any more evidence. Even if everything said in evidence was correct there was nothing to show that the defendant had stolen the beast, or that he had it feloniously in his possession. He was sure that no jury would convict. It appeared to him to be a pure and simple mistake by accused’s drover, and not by accused himself. Accused had been brought to the station about the middle of the night, and was asked to identify the beast by candlelight; he said he thought it was his but that he would come back in daylight to make sure. He did come back, and said that it was not his beast – it was like it. He thought there was no case at all against the accused, and that he should be acquitted.

The jury agreed, and the accused was at once discharged.

In 1918 Herb was a defendant in a case brought against him by one Kate Welsh, who claimed that 20 head of cattle in Herb’s possession. The original trial was reported in The Northern Champion on Wed 3 Jul 1918. Herb was not called to give evidence, because the prosecution could not prove that Kate owned the cattle; the defence claimed the stock were the property of the Kate’s husband, who had actually sold him the cattle. The case against Herb was dismissed, but went to appeal. This was also dismissed. From The Northern Champion, Sat 27 Jul 1918):

District Court, Sydney.
(In Chambers.)

In this case, which was heard by Judge Hamilton at last Taree District Court, a verdict was given for the defendant.

The plaintiff on Tuesday last applied to Judge Hamilton for a new trial on a number of grounds. His Honor, after hearing argument by Mr. F. A. A. Russell, instructed by Mr. J. M. Hooke, for plaintiff, Mrs. Welsh, and by Mr. R. Cowan, instructed by Mr. D. Cowan for defendant, O’Neill, dismissed the application with costs.

On Thu 29 May 1924 the Freeman’s Journal carried a report of a successful appeal against a block of land alongside the Catholic Church, which had been opened in 1901, being assessed for rates. In Herb’s testimony he states he is a grazier:

And When They Are Not

Herbert T. O’Neill deposed: I am a grazier, and reside at Wingham. I have known the church property for about 34 years, and the church building itself, I would say, has been up 25 years. The property is used for the accommodation of horses and vehicles when service is held in the church. Of late there has been no surplus of lands after requirements have been met. Of late years the congregation has certainly increased. I believe the people desire at present to keep the whole of the ground for actual church purposes.

Herbert took over the lease of the Royal Hotel in Taree in February 1925 (Macleay Argus, Fri 25 Feb 1925).).

Local newspapers reported on the comings and goings of Herb and his family. Much of their movements can be gleaned from these reports. Below are some examples.

The Maitland Weekly Mercury, Sat 2 Jun 1928:

Mrs. H. T. O’Neill, of Taree, sails on Thursday on a voyage, to China, Japan and the Malay States. With her will go Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Minch. Mrs. Minch is a sister of Mr. Herb O’Neill. We join with their friends in wishing them a pleasant voyage and a safe return.

There is another court case that involved Herb whilst he lived in Taree. In this report, from the Thu 07 Feb 1929 edition of the The Maitland Daily Mercury, mention was made of Patrick Alfred O’Neill. This is actually his son, Alfred Patrick, who was always known by his middle name:

At the Newcastle Police Court, Gordon Francis Hopkins, alias C. J. F. Gordon, appeared before Mr. T. W. Cohen, R.S.M., charged, by warrant, that at Taree, on August 14, 1926, he obtained from Patrick Alfred O’Neill the sum of £10, the property of Herbert Thomas O’Neill, with intent to defraud. There was a similar charge with respect to the sum of £5. Defendant was further charged that, on August 14, he aided and abetted J. R. Rickbody, who obtained by means of a valueless cheque, from Patrick Alfred O’Neill, the sum of £10, the property of Herbert Thomas O’Neill. A remand to the Taree Police Court on February 18 was granted, and defendant was allowed bail in surities of £60.

The Dungog Chronicle often featured a travel report. In one particular report, on Fri 22 Jul 1927, one correspondent, in an article entitled Going North”

Taree has the appearance of being a very thriving town. New buildings are going up in all directions. Streets are good and the chief footpaths are paved. Electric lights illuminate the crossings. It will not be long before a town water supply is available as the pipes are now laying by the road side. For up-to-date shops and hotels Taree eclipses many towns. Connell’s store holds pride of place. The Royal Hotel, conducted by the genial Herb. O’Neil, under whose roof we stayed, is one of the leading hotels of the North. Every convenience, every comfort – even to a hot sea water bath – is available.

A correspondent in the Dungog Chronicle made mention of O’Neill hospitality in an article on Fri 04 Sep 1931:


A stop for light refreshments at Gloucester served to remind me that some acknowledgment should be made of the homely and splendid treatment we (my friend, of course, was well known, as he had been on the roads for six years) received at the various hotels, and also served to bring to mind Martin Shenstone’s lines:-

“Whoe’er has travell’d life’s dull round,
Where’er his fancies may have been,
Will sigh to think he still has found
His warmest welcome in an inn.” …

The O’Neills must, as promised in the opening of these somewhat rambling remarks, have a special paragraph all to themselves. I was introduced to three of them, viz.: Pat, of the Bank Hotel, Dungog; Herb., Royal, Taree; and Jack, Hastings, Wauchope; and if there are any more of the O’Neill clan anywhere within a radius of fifty miles when next I visit the North Coast, I would like to meet them too. There’s a genuine ring about the “pleased to meet you” of an O’Neill that makes one feel at home at once – a sort of feeling that if you thought a seidlitz powder would do you more good than a whisky and soda, either or anyone of them would endeavor to get one for you. …

Coopernook can boast of a fine hotel, unusually large for a small town.

In fact the Coopernook Hotel was purchased by Herb’s wife Mary for their two daughters, Myra and Kathleen, though it was always run by a manager on their behalf. At one stage, the manager was Herb’s nephew, Dominic O’Neill.

From the Dungog Chronicle, Tue 09 Mar 1926:

Amongst the visitors to Bullahdelah Show was Mr. Herb O’Neill, of the Royal Hotel, Taree. His son accompanied him. Mr. O’Neill was born in that district and was a pupil of Markwell School. He was pleased to see the success of the pupils of that school in the pavilion sections.

On Tue 30 Jun 1931:

Mr. Herb. O’Neill, Proprietor of the Royal Hotel, Taree, came down with the Taree Bowlers on Saturday and spent the week-end in town, as the guest of his son, Mr. Pat. O’Neill, of the Bank Hotel. On Sunday he visited Brookfield, his birthplace. He is looking forward to the visit [of the] Dungog bowlers to Taree.

From The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, Tue 10 Nov 1931:


Ernest William Crawford, Bondi, claimed from Herbert Thomas O’Neill, the sum of £400 for damages for injuries which, it was alleged, were caused by the failure of defendant to warn him of the danger of a stairway at the Royal Hotel, Taree, or to light the stairway.

Mr. N. McTague, instructed by Mr. R. S. Hawkins, appeared for plaintiff and Mr. E. V. Treatt, Instructed by Mr. Nicholls, of the firm of Dawson, Waldron, Edwards and Nicholls, for defendant.

The defence denied negligence.

Plaintiff said he was a commercial traveller living at Bondi. At the beginning of May last be was jointly employed by Sydney firms on a commission basis. He started from Newcastle on May 4 with another commercial traveller named McKenzie. After visiting Raymond Terrace, Gloucester and Wingham they arrived at Taree at 6.20 p.m. on May 6, and put up at the Royal Hotel. It had been raining during the day and the night was cloudy. McKenzie booked the rooms, Mrs. O’Neill, junr., being in the office. She called Mark, the porter, who did -not appear. McKenzie then showed plaintiff where the rooms were. The rooms were upstairs and were numbered 24 and 25. He asked McKenzie where the conveniences were and McKenzie pointed to places. The idea he gathered was that a bathroom and lavatory were in the direction from which they came. Plaintiff went to bed about 11 p.m. after having one or two shandies. Early in the morning he was awakened and got out of bed to go to the lavatory. There were no lights at the back of the premises. He went to where he thought the lavatory was and crashed down the back steps of the hotel. He was unconscious for some time. Later he found out that his watch was broken, it having stopped at 2.40 a.m. The next day he was taken to hospital, where he remained for five weeks. The hospital account was £13/2/6 and the doctor’s fee £12/1/6. After returning to Sydney he had to have massage treatment, which cost £3. It was not until the end of September that he was able to return to work. He estimated that he would have earned about £15 per week if he had not been incapacitated. He had lost 12 weeks of work representing a loss of £180 in earnings. He had suffered a good deal of pain in hospital. The pain did not cease when he left hospital. He had a fracture of the pelvis. The ankle still swelled.

To his Honor: He had an electric switch in his room. He had matches. The hotel did not supply matches.

To Mr. McTague: When he went to bed at 11 a.m. there were no lights on.

To his Honor: He went out in his bare feet He did not know if he had his slippers in his luggage. Usually he did not go for a walk in a hotel.

To Mr. Treatt: Usually he turned on lights. He did not turn on lights that night. At Glen Innes, for instance, he found lights on. He stayed at the Tattersall’s Hotel, Glen Innes. To be candid, he did not come into hotels after midnight. He had been travelling for years. It took about 10 minutes to make up his mind to go to the lavatory. He did not get up and put on the light because he thought the discomfort would pass away. He tried to find the switch in his room but could not remember where it was. He had matches in his clothes. It was semidarkness. One could see better than by coming straight out of a light. To all appearances the stairway was a porchway. It was the same as a door in a house. He did not go to the back before he went to bed. He did not go into any lavatory. One of the first things he did, on going to an hotel, was to find out where the lavatory was. He had not seen any hotel with a stairway anything like the one at the Royal Hotel. It would have been a reasonable precaution to strike a match if he had one. He did not have one on him.

To his Honor: The matches were in his coat in his bedroom.

To Mr. Treatt: He walked smartly. He did not remember if the stairway was only seven or eight steps from his bedroom. The switch in the room was behind the French door. The moon was not shining. He had just started with the three firms. Prior to that he was employed by the Australian Drug Company. Before taking up his position with the three firms he went on a holiday of eight months in South Australia. He had not actually done work for the companies. Previously one man had done £180 per week at 10 per cent with one line, another £75 at 10 per cent with a line and a third £50 at 7½ per cent with a further line. He was well known to the chemists throughout Australia and had a good connection. On the figures quoted he should have earned about £15 per week, or perhaps a little more, seeing the duty was coming in.

Frank Oliver Stokes, legally qualified medical officer, said he saw plaintiff early in the morning of May 7 and had him removed to the hospital. Plaintiff had a fracture of the pelvis on the left side. A photograph was produced. Plaintiff was in hospital till June 11, viz., five weeks. He saw plaintiff every day. For a fortnight or three weeks, plaintiff would have a good deal of pain. He saw plaintiff on July 2 and told him he did not think he could work till early in August. It could be correct as plaintiff said, that he could not work till October.

To Mr. Treatt: Plaintiff went to Sydney, and said he could not work. Witness advised him to see his local doctor.

Duncan McKenzie, commercial traveller, residing at Coogee, said he and plaintiff came to the hotel in witness’ car. He told Mrs. Wm. O’Neill that he would show plaintiff where the rooms were. Crawford said, ‘Where are the conveniences, Mac’, Witness said, ‘There is one at that end and another at that end (pointing to different parts of the hotel). Witness went to bed about 11 p.m., Crawford going at the same time. He did not see Crawford till next morning.

To Mr. Treatt: When they arrived there was a light at the hotel. They could clearly see the stairs then.

To Mr. McTague: He had not used the back stairs; but knew where they were.

Mark Smart said he had been the porter at the hotel for about two years. His instructions were to show guests to their rooms and all conveniences. He did that to all strangers. He was not present when Crawford came in. There was an electric light on the top of the stairway and another at the bottom. He showed those switches to strangers.

This was the case for plaintiff.

Mr. Treatt said the defence would not go into evidence.

His Honor adjourned the case to inspect the stairway.

His Honor said that in his opinion there was quite insufficient evidence of negligence on the part of defendant. He could not see any evidence that existed which would warrant him in holding that the hotelkeeper exhibited any want of reasonable care in the manner in which he conducted his hotel or ordered his premises, or in the matter of structure of his premises or the methods by which boarders at his hotel could meet the necessities of nature if those arose at any time of the night. He did not know that he should say any more about that. He did not see anything in the nature of a trap; anything in existence of unusual danger which defendant ought to have known. To his mind there were just the ordinary conveniences, perhaps not very conspicuously indicated, but such as a little bit of investigation on the part of the merest stranger, particularly in the feelings which plaintiff suffered from, could have been ascertained. So much for negligence itself. Assuming there was, this tragic accident which one could not help but be very sorry for, arose from lack of reasonable precaution that the plaintiff should have taken. He was in a strange place. His friend was in the next room. Plaintiff was suffering from cholic or pain, and felt it was necessary to go to a place of convenience. Plaintiff walked out, never attempting to get any matches. Plaintiff never attempted to light any matches to find out where he was after he got to a black place, but took it upon himself to assume that the place was a convenience without ascertaining where he was intruding. Plaintiff said that it had been pointed out by his friend that it was where lavatories were or where he (plaintiff) thought a lavatory was. He (his Honor) did not know that showed any responsibility on the part of the hotelkeeper or relieved plaintiff of the ordinary precaution of striking matches to find out where he was. Under those circumstances he had no alternative but find a verdict for defendant.

on Fri 19 Feb 1932:

Mrs. Herb. O’Neill, of Taree and her son, Bill, paid a visit to Dungog on Wednesday and left on Thursday. Mrs. O’Neill called to see how son Pat and his wife and baby were getting along. Mrs. O’Neill was just finishing an eleven hundred mile motor tour.

Tue 02 May 1933:

Mr. and Mrs. Herb. O’Neill, of the Royal Hotel, Taree, were motored to Dungog on Thursday, from Sydney, by son Pat., of the Bank Hotel, Dungog. Son Bill came down by train and motored them on to their home at Taree. Whilst in town on Friday, Mr. O’Neill, senr., visited the cattle sales and met many old friends.

Tue 04 Jul 1933:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey and Mr. Herb. O’Neill, of Taree, passed through Dungog on Monday on their way back home from Newcastle, where they attended the golden wedding of one of their brothers [see James Henry O’Neill]. They halted at the Bank Hotel where Mr. Pat. O’Neill (son of Mr. Herb. O’Neill) entertained them.

Tue 24 Apr 1934:

Mr. Herb. O’Neill, proprietor of the Royal Hotel, Taree, and Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Yarras, and formerly of Kempsey, motored through Dungog on Monday on their way home from Sydney. They dropped in at the Bank Hotel to see Mr. and Mrs. Pat. O’Neill and family. Both the visitors wore in excellent health.

An interesting near miss and follow-up experiment reported in The Northern Champion on Sat 05 Mar 1932:


The smell of something burning sent the staff of the Royal Hotel at Taree going a few days ago to ascertain the origin. It was discovered on the front balcony, where the sun’s rays, shining through a water bottle, had set a towel on fire. Painters at work inside the building had shifted a toilet table out on to the balcony, with a water bottle and glass upside down over the top still resting on the table and a towel nearby. Concentration of the rays of the afternoon’s sun through the bottle had set fire to the towel, which had eight holes each three inches in diameter burnt in it, through the various folds, when discovered. The wooden table had also been set alight and would have been destroyed had it not been discovered in time, says the “Times.” Some people were sceptical about the origin of the fire, saying it must have been caused from a spark from a pipe or cigarette; so Mr. O’Neill, the licensee, tried out the water bottle on the following day to convince them and on two occasions a towel started to burn within five minutes of the sun’s rays being cast on it.

The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales, Wed 25 Jul 1934:


…Yesterday (Tuesday) Mrs. H. T. O’Neill, of the Royal Hotel, Taree, received a cable from her husband from Auckland to the effect that they were having a beautiful time in Auckland, all well, and were then leaving for Suva. The cable was lodged at 9.11 a.m.

Tue 26 Feb 1935:

Mr. H. T. O’Neill, who until recently was the proprietor of the Royal Hotel, Taree, spent a holiday with his son, Pat, at the Bank Hotel, Dungog. Mr. O’Neill disposed of his business, to Mr. Scahill, formerly of Scone, who has quickly established his popularity in Taree. Mr. O’Neill has been to Sydney as a member of the Taree bowling club and played excellent bowls in the country week competitions. The future home of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill will be at Port Macquarie.

Mr. O’Neill and son, Pat., have gone up to Port Macquarie and will later spend a fortnight at The Ranch, near Krambach.

Tue 12 Nov 1935:

Mr. Herb O’Neill and son, Pat, have gone to The Ranch, near Krambach for a few days. Mr. O’Neill is happy when on his fine property.

Herb acted as an executor in the wills of his brother-in-law, William Moylan (in 1917) and of his sister-in-law, Alice Ann Withycombe, née Thompson, (in 1930).

The family tell us that Mary Jane was an astute business woman, and this is born out by an article that appeared in The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer on Thu 29 Mar 1934; it is very instructive in its detail:

Cottages for Mrs. H. T. O’Neill, of Taree.

A contract has been let to Mr. H. E. Milligan, builder and contractor, of Taree, for the construction and erection of two weatherboard cottages in Wingham, for Mrs. H. T. O’Neill, of the Royal Hotel, Taree.

One cottage is to be erected on an allotment of land in Bungay Road, and the other cottage on land fronting Canget Street, opposite Mr. T. H. Stone’s Five Ways Garage.

The cottage in Bungay Road will contain the following accommodation: Two Bedrooms, 14 x 12 and 12 x 11; Living Room, 16 x 12; Kitchen, 10ft. 6in. x 11ft.; Entrance Hall, 8ft. x 7ft.;. Dressing Room, 8ft. x 7ft.; Breakfast Ingle Nook, 5ft. x 6ft. 6in.; Bathroom, 7ft. x 6ft.; Pantry, 5ft. x 5ft.; Laundry, 8ft. x 9ft.; Sleep Out Verandahs, 15ft. x 8ft., and 11ft, x 8ft.; Front Verandah, 13ft. x 8ft., and Back Verandah, 8ft. x 7ft.

The cottage in Canget Street will contain two Bedrooms, 14 x 12, and 14 x 10; Living Room, 15ft. 6in. x 12ft.; Kitchen, 12ft. x 11ft. 6in.; Breakfast Inglenook, 7ft. 6in. x 4ft. 6in.; Bath room, 8ft. x 6ft.; Front Verandah, 19ft. 6in. x 6ft.; Side Verandahs, 16ft. x 13ft. and 16ft. x 8ft.; and Back Verandah, 11ft, x 8ft.

Both cottages will be constructed with hardwood framing, lined on external walls with red mahogany rusticated weatherboards, roofed with galvanised iron, and floored with tallow wood flooring.

The living room, bedrooms, kitchen, and breakfast inglenook, and passages will be lined with red mahogany dadoes, 4ft. high, with fibrous plaster sheeting above, and the halls with a panelled dado of three-ply Oregon, with plaster sheeting above.

The bathrooms will be furnished with square fronted porcelain lavatory basins, and built-in porcelain baths, the walls being lined for a height of 6ft. from floor with ‘Tilux’ marble faced fibro cement sheeting in grey tone, finished over with joints and in angles with black ‘Tilux’ cover battens, set out to form vertical uniform panels with skirting of similar material along bottom, edge, and dado moulding along top. The wall above is to be lined with plaster sheeting.

The ceilings of entrance halls and living rooms are to be lined, with embossed steel sheeting of ornate design, set out to form panels, and finished around margins of ceilings with embossed steel cornice to match design of ceilings. The ceilings of remaining rooms and passages are to be lined with plain fibrous plaster sheeting, finished over joints and around margins of ceilings with red mahogany cover battens, with fascias around walls of similar material.

The living rooms are provided with chimneys, the fireplaces of which are of the open type, finished with red face bricks, and furnished with artistically designed mantel pieces. On pach side of chimneys in living room a cupboard and bookcase of stained wood is fitted to harmonise with the adjoining fittings. The lobby near the bathroom is furnished with two linen presses, replete with shelving, as also is the pantry in kitchen, and the larder on back verandah. The breakfast ingle nooks are fitted up with solidly built in refrectory tables, and present on plan a very attractive and cosy, inviting appearance.

The kitchens are provided with chimneys furnished with built-in fuel stoves, mantel shelves, and alongside the chimneys the space is taken up with kitchen cupboards, with white enamelled kitchen sinks and draining boards, and above cupboards with dresser with glass panelled doors. The laundries are furnished with built-in copper boilers, and three compartment cement concrete washtubs.

The doors and windows throughout are of special design, the doors to entrance hall and living room being glazed with decorative obscured glass, and the windows with margins of obscured glass with centre panels of plain glass. Electric light is installed in every room and in entrance hall and verandahs, with a power point for kitchen and laundries. The town water service is laid on to nickel-plated taps over each wash tub and copper, kitchen sink, basin, bath and shower in bath room, and for the front and back gardens.

The painting and decorating schemes will be carried out in the modern bright tones, the woodwork of bathrooms and kitchens will be finished in enamel paint in artistic tones, and the remaining internal woodwork in stained and varnished mission finish.

A perusal of the specifications indicates that the Architect, Mr. P. J. Moran, has been commissioned to provide every possible convenience for the comfort of tenants. Nothing has evidently been spared by the owner in order to ensure a complete and satisfactory finish for the cottages.

An article in The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales on Sat 02 Feb 1935 reported on the departure of the O’Neill family from Taree, and mentioned that Herb had been licensee of the Royal Hotel there since 1925:

“Mr. and Mrs. H. T. O’Neill and Family.

Having disposed of his lease of the Royal Hotel Taree, Mr. H. T. O’Neill is retiring from business, at any rate for a time, and will spend the next few months at his Port Macquarie seaside cottage. His movements after that are as yet indefinite, but they may include a trip abroad. During the 10 years that Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill controlled the destinies or the Royal Hotel, it has gained a widespread reputation for hospitality and homeliness known from the border to the city, and there have been many expressions of regret from residents of this district and travellers alike that they are going out of the business. Last week a number of friends took advantage of Mr. O’Neill’s birthday to express their regret at his impending departure as well as extending to him the good wishes attached to such anniversaries.


On Tuesday night there were fully 80 citizens and friends assembled in the lounge room of the Royal Hotel to say farewell to Mr. O’Neill. Wingham, Lansdowne and other parts of the district were also well represented. The Mayor (Ald. R. S. Butterworth) presided in his usual happy way, and later had seated on his right the guest of the evening. Over at the piano was Mr. N. H. Walker and Mr. W. Humphries (violin), ready to accompany all and sundry who contributed musical items. When the guest entered the room the gathering rose and sang “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” After the toast of “The King” had been honored, apologies were read from quite a number of people, including Messrs Carlin, Cains, V. Rose, O’Donohue. F. A. Riddett, Walter Abbott, Farquhar Flett, C. H. Blenkin, F. Northam and J. Dowsett.

Cr. H. E. Milligan (president of I Manning Shire) proposed the principal toast, that of “Our Guest.” He said his acquaintance with Mr. O’Neill started on the football field, nearly 40 years ago. It was on the Wingham Park. At that time their guest did not have quite as much “chest” development as at present, but he was a very active young man and a fast runner. In the years that intervened it had always been a pleasure to meet Mr. O’Neill, no matter whether it was in business or sport. He considered him “the last word” in sportsmanship. He had met their guest in many ways as the years rolled by and had found him to be the man he had believed him to be. He felt that if anyone quarrelled with Mr. O’Neill, it was that person’s fault. The wonderful gathering that evening was a splendid testimony to the esteem and respect in which their guest was held by the people of town and district. He understood Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill intended taking up residence at Port Macquarie for a time, but that was no distance away in the days of modern transit. He hoped, however, when they did settle down it would he in Taree. (Applause). He knew Mr. O’Neill as a ratepayer of Manning Shire, and said what a wonderful thing it would he if all the ratepayers were like him. Mr. O’Neill wanted a bridge and the Shire Council wanted to give it to him. but they had no money to pay for the construction. Mr. O’Neill found the money and allowed the council to pay it back out of his rates as they fell due. If other ratepayers did likewise, it would be a great benefit all round. He then submitted the toast which had been entrusted to him.
Mr. R. S. Hawkins, solicitor, was the next speaker. The previous speaker had said he first met Mr. O’Neill at football. He (the speaker) felt that if football played any part in developing their guest’s genial disposition there was a lot to be said for football. Speaking of another sport, Mr. Hawkins went on to say that when it was proposed to start a bowling club in Taree, Mr. O’Neill gave the movement his moral, financial and even physical support. When matters had developed and actual play started their guest developed a decided affection for “kitty.” Mr. O’Neill was a true sport, and one to whom it was very hard to say good-bye. He was sure that their guest would he very much missed by members of the Bowling Club. If he did decide to retire from active life there was no better place to settle down than Taree, in a spot near the bowling green. He extended all good wishes to the guest.

Mr. P. N. Dark, an old friend from Wingham. said he had known Mr. O’Neill for nearly 40 years. He hoped he and Mrs. O’Neill would have all the happiness and all the prosperity they wished for.

Mr. C. A. Jackson, secretary of the Manning River A. and H. Association, said it was eight years since he first met their guest and he was one of the few men who carried the A1 ticket. He (the speaker) had been a tenant of Mr. O’Neill for the last eight years and a very near neighbour, so he had every opportunity of judging the man. During the period that he had been in Taree Mr. O’Neill had been one of the greatest supporters of the show and one of the best committeemen. It was men like their guest who enabled the committee to achieve what they had done in the past. He was glad to know that Mr. O’Neill was not leaving the committee and that he intended to be back in Taree to see the show through. He endorsed all the good things which bad been said by other speakers.

Mr. C. D. McDonell, Central Lansdowne, said he had travelled 14 miles to be with them at the farewell gathering to his old friend, one who had been a good fellow and a good friend in every sense of the word. Like Cr. Milligan, he first met Mr. O’Neill on the football field, when he was a speedy winger. His brother (Mr. Donny McDonell) said to him on the field of play one day, “Don’t let that ball out. If it gets to that long-legged fellow he’s sure to cross over.” The ball got out and, sure enough, the long-legged fellow crossed over with it. He wished Mr. O’Neill all health and happiness in the years that remained. He had travelled 14 miles that night to pay his humble tribute to a good man and a good friend, and he would willingly travel 114 miles if necessary to do it again.

Mr. W. Northey, speaking on behalf of the railway men of Taree, said they all held Mr. O’Neill in high esteem. He was a man who always did a good turn when he could. He wished their guest all the good the good things he could wish himself.

Mr. Fred Balley, commercial traveller, spoke on behalf of the travellers generally. The Royal Hotel was always renowned for its hospitality while under the guidance of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill. Travellers were made welcome and everything possible was done for them, together with an excellent service. On behalf of the members of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, he thanked Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill for their many kindnesses and wished them both all the good things they might desire.

Mr. A. A. Maloney expressed his feeling of deep regret at the impending departure of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill, whom he regarded as personal friends. In their class of business they had set a wonderful standard in Taree and this wag reflected by the tone which it assisted to give the town in general. They were also very charitable and did it in such a way that few outside those immediately concerned knew of it. He wished them all happiness at Port Macquarie and in their future life.

Dr. F. O. Stokes said the departure of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill was a distinct loss to the town and district. They would miss Mr. O’Neill, particularly from the Bowling Club. They did not have a bowling green at Port Macquarie, and he hoped their guest would get busy and see that the town had one soon. The speaker then went on to deal in a humorous way with the bowling exploits of the guest, not forgetting the Fiji trip. The whole of the members of the Bowling Club were extremely sorry that Mr. O’Neill, or “Pop,” as he was familiarly called, was about to leave them. On behalf of the members of the club and himself he wished Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill all happiness and prosperity and that it would not be long before they returned to Taree and settled down here.

The toast was then musically honored.

Before Mr. O’Neill responded the Mayor congratulated Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill on the way they had conducted the hotel in Taree, as well as in Wingham in earlier davs. The Royal Hotel at Taree was known far and wide throughout the State for its hospitality and its high standard. It was a very fine thing for Taree to have a big hotel conducted in the way that Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill had conducted it. It showed Taree was up-to-date. He wished them both all success and happiness. He then presented Mr. O’Neill with a handsome suitcase, and he wished the guest to understand that it was not intended by his friends that he should use it only to pack his things in to go away, but to bring his things back to Taree after he had his holiday and when he had decided in make his home here.

Mr. O’Neill received an ovation when he stood up to respond. He said he was surprised and awfully pleased to see such a fine gathering of friends to say farewell to him, and his only regret was that he could not find words with which to express the feelings he cherished. He could say without fear or contradiction that the 10 years he had been in business in Taree had been the most pleasant of his life, and they appeared to have passed by very quickly. Mrs. O’Neill and he had worked very hard to build up the reputation which the hotel had gained, and he was pleased to say that they had a very fine business connection, which they appreciated to the fullest extent. It might be news to some of them to know that his was almost the largest license fee paid for any hotel from the Queensland border to Newcastle. He thanked the gentlemen who had spoken so kindly of himself and Mrs. O’Neill, and he could assure them that their remarks were very keenly appreciated. They had always tried to do the right thing and he hoped they would continue to do so until the last day. He thanked them very sincerely for their presence, kind remarks and gift. He did not think they had lost any of the good class of trade the hotel had. Mrs. O’Neill and their family had all worked hard to do the right thing in the hotel and it was most gratifying to know that what they had done had met with the approbation of the people amongst whom they lived as well as those who were passing through. Reference had been made to football and his connection with the game. He had some very enjoyable but very hard times at football, for they played it in the old days with plenty of vim. Since he had grown too old to play the game he endeavored to do what he could for the good old sport, and his sons followed in his footsteps. He did not know what he would do in the future. He first intended to go to Port Macquarie and have a good rest, and after that he would start to think what he would do. He knew that at Port Macquarie he would miss his game of bowls. He then expressed his thanks to Dr. Stokes for his kindness and attention in a professional way at various times. One had only to ring for the doctor and he was on the spot in a very few minutes. Mr. W. S. Martin had also been very kind to him. Other friends had also been most kind, but he could not mention the names of all. He thanked Mr. Jackson for his kindly references to his work on the show committee. He intended to come back for the show and assist it in any way he could. In regard to bowls, be had already informed his skipper that he be would always be ready to take his place in the rink when wanted. He was also deeply indebted to Mr. Fred Bailey for his kind remarks, on behalf of the members of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, in regard to the standard of the house, which he and Mrs. O’Neill deeply appreciated. In thanking all friends, for the support which he had received, he said he hoped they would give the shine to his successor, who was coming to Taree with a very good reputation as a hotelkeeper. Before resuming his seat he said be had two faithful friends who regularly visited his Belbora ranch with him at weekends, and he wished to thank them for their loyalty to him, and particularly for their very kind offer, that if he did decide to go overseas for a trip, they would continue to visit the ranch and look after his interests. It was a splendid offer, for which he thanked them. That offer showed the splendid class of friendship that existed between the three of them. He then thanked the Mayor for presiding at the wonderful gathering that evening. His association with the Mayor had always been most pleasant. He concluded by again thanking all, on behalf of Mrs. O’Neill and himself, for their kind remarks, present and good wishes. (Applause).

On the proposal of Mr. Fred Bailey, a hearty vote of thanks was accorded the Mayor, for presiding.
Mr. Butterworth briefly responded and the happy gathering ended. During the evening Messrs Walker and Humphries contributed an instrumental duet, Mr. V. Fazio a song, and Mr. N. H. Walker a song. The latter presided at the piano throughout.

However, it appears he still had business interests in Taree well after his departure. On Tue 15 Jul 1947, the Dungog Chronicle carried a public notice of a proposed new 50 bedroom hotel in Taree. The location for this hotel involved the butcher’s shop and a building which included “the adjoining baker’s shop owned by Mr. H. T. O’Neill, of Port Macquarie, and formerly of the Royal Hotel, Taree”.

Whilst in Port Macquarie, Herb continued his interest in bowling, becoming for a time President of the local Bowling Club. On Sat 30 Apr 1938 the Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate reported on the official opening of the new club in the following terms:


Glorious weather prevailed for the official opening of the Fort Ma quarie Bowling Club’s full-sized bowling green on Saturday afternoon last. Besides a ring of visiting bowlers from Macksville, Kempsey, Taree, Wingham, and Gloucester and other friends, same with their wives and families, quite a number of local residents and district people assembled to take part in the ceremony.

At the time mentioned Ald. E. A. Mowle (Mayor) and Mrs. Mowle, Mr. H. T. O’Neill (President of the Port Macquarie Bowling Club), Mrs. O’Neill, and the president or a re presentative of all clubs attending assembled, on the verandah of the club house for the official opening ceremony.

… The Municipal Council had done its best to make the bowling green and tennis courts a success and an asset to Port Macquarie. The former was completed, and had been taken over by the club, and it was hoped shortly to complete the tennis courts satisfactorily. Without speaking further on the subject, the Mayor then called on Mr. H. T. O’Neill, President of the Club, to declare the bowling green officially opened, when the bowlers could take their place on it ready for play. Mr. H. T. O’Neill first welcomed all their visiting bowler friends and all other visitors that afternoon. It was very pleasing to have members of other clubs associated with them in the opening ceremony. He hoped all would have an enjoyable game. The green was not yet in first-class order, but was improving and would play fairly well. However, he trusted they would all enjoy the games with new players. Just recently a Sydney visitor had taken the levels of the green, and said it was a very good one, which in due course would be amongst some of the best in the State. The club hoped to continually improve it. He trusted all would have a pleasant afternoon, and that they would see the bowlers here again on many future occasions. He had much pleasure in declaring the green officially open for play.

Dr. Stokes, President of Taree Bowling Club, expressed appreciation on behalf of that body for the kind invitation to attend that afternoon. He thought Port Macquarie was to be congratulated on its fine bowling green. He had heard Mr Mowle had done a lot for Port Macquarie, but it would be found that the construction of the bowling green was the best thing he had done for the town in all the course of his municipal life. He was glad they had selected the right man as president of the club, Mr. Herb. O.Neill. There was not a more popular man. When Mr. O’Neill came here to live it was in anticipation of having a bowling green laid down. …

The couple moved to Sydney, living in Willoughby. Their Port Macquarie residence was sold; The Sydney Morning Herald, Sat 02 Aug 1952 carried this ad:

Residence of Mr Herb (Pop) O’Neill. 4 large bedrooms, lounge 18 x 14, dining room, verandah room glassed, venetian blinds and wall to wall carpets throughout. Hot water service, refrige, electric and fuel stoves. Verandah 3 sides. Bathroom, laundry, shower room and garage. Adjacent town beach. Completely furnished. Price £ 5000.

From the Dungog Chronicle, Sat 07 Mar 1953:

Passed through Dungog on Friday, Mr. Pat O’Neill, daughter Clare and Mr. Austin Gallagher, of Krambach. Pat has disposed of his hotel business in North Sydney and is having a holiday. He reports that his parents Mr. and Mrs. Herb O’Neill, who live at Willoughby are well.

Herb passed away at Macquarie Park, Willoughby, New South Wales on 05 Jan 1955. Mary Jane lived for another 16 years, passing away at Macquarie Park on 16 Jul 1971.

Herb & Mary Jane’s family:

01. Mary Pretoria Myra (b. 25 Apr 1900, d. 29 Apr 1995), known as Myra

02. Patrick John (b. 14 Mar 1902, d. 03 Apr 1984), known as Jack

03. Alfred Patrick (b. 12 Dec 1904, d. 23 Jun 1969), known as Pat

04. Kathleen (b. 01 Dec 1906, d. 08 Sep 2006), known as Kath

05. William Patrick (b. 24 Nov 1909, d. ?), known as Billy or Bill

L to R: Herb, with Pat’s father-in-law Alfred Byrnes, sons Pat, Jack (holding cousins of Pauline and Clare), and a family friend

L to R: Pat, Jack, probable O’Neill relative, Bill, and a family friend

Mary Jane at Myra’s, Willoughby

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