Alfred Patrick O’Neill (1904-1969)
Rita Clare Byrnes

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Alfred Patrick O’Neill (known as Pat, and hence often appearing as Patrick Alfred in later official documents) was the third of five children of Herbert Thomas O’Neill & Mary Jane Thompson. He was born on 12 Dec 1904 in Wingham, New South Wales. He attended St. Joseph’s College, Hunter’s Hill, completing the Leaving Certificate in 1919 (The Catholic Press, Thu 05 Feb 1920).

Rita Clare Byrnes was the oldest child of Alfred George Byrnes & Clara Healey, born on 08 Nov 1910 in Manilla, New South Wales.

Pat and Rita’s marriage on 22 Feb 1930 was reported in Freeman’s Journal,on Thu 27 Mar 1930:


Recently, St. Joseph’s Church, Wauchope, was very prettily decorated for the wedding of Miss Rita Byrnes, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Byrnes, to Mr. ‘Pat’ O’Neill, second son of Mr. and Mrs. Herb. O’Neill, of Taree. Rev. Father L. F. McCarthy, M.S.C., of Kensington, officiated, and Rev. Father Fillodeau celebrated the Nuptial Mass. The bride made a pretty picture as she entered the church on the arm of her father. Her frock was a floral moire satin with cut tulle veil, and she carried a beautiful bouquet of pink and white lillium frangipanni and tuberoses.

Miss R. Healey, aunt of the bride, attended the bride, wearing a pretty frock of powder blue georgette embroidered in silver. Her bouquet was of pink lillium and blue hydrangea and streamers to match Mr. P. J. Moran, of Taree, acted as best man. The bridegroom’s gift to the bride was a diamond brooch and to the bridesmaid a string of crystals. The reception was held in the Masonic Hall, where Mrs. Byrnes received the guests in a coral-tinted georgette and carried a posy of autumn tinted flowers. Mrs. O’Neill, the bridegroom’s mother, wore a floral georgette and carried a pretty posy to match. Father McCarthy, who had known the bride from childhood, proposed the toast of the happy couple, and was supported by Father Fillodeau, after which the usual toasts were honored. On leaving for the honeymoon the bride covered her floral georgette frock with a lido blue satin coat. The honeymoon will include a tour of the Blue Mountains and the South Coast.

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate also carried a report on Sat 22 Feb 1930:

A very pretty wedding was celebrated today at the Catholic Church, the contracting parties being Mr. Pat O’Neill and Miss Rita Byrnes, of the Star Hotel. The reception was held at the Masonic Hall, and later the happy couple left, amid many cheers, by car, for Sydney and Tasmania.

According to his sister Kath, prior to his marriage Pat was involved in the Royal Hotel in Taree, which his parents subsequently took over. Pat stayed and helped; early in 1926 he suffered what might have been a more serious accident; from The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 23 Jan 1926:

Mr. Pat O’Neill, of the Royal Hotel, Taree, was the victim of a simple but serious accident on Saturday last. Whilst serving in the bar a bottle of wine, which fell from a shelf and broke on a cask near the counter, struck him on the top of the right foot and severed an artery and two tendons. He was at once conveyed to the M.R.D. Hospital, of which he will be a patient for a month or two. Pat is a popular footballer, and his many friends will be sorry to hear of his injury. – ‘Champion.’

For a short time Pat had the lease of the Wauchope Hotel, owned by his father-in-law. In the Fri 30 Jan 1931 edition of the Dungog Chronicle, it was reported:

Mr. Pat. O’Neill, of Wauchope, and son of Mr. and Mrs. H. T. O’Neill, of Taree has disposed of his lease of the Wauchope Hotel to Mr. Byrnes, the owner, the change over having taken place last week. Mr. O’Neill motored to Sydney last Thursday.

Even in his early years in business, Pat was a generous patron of sport. On Tue 30 May 1933 we read:

The O’Neill cup was won by Port Macquarie on Saturday when they defeated the holders, Wauchope, by 8 to nil. Dungog will contest the O’Neill Cup on 24th June. It was donated by Mr. Pat. O’Neill when he was in business in Wauchope.

Then on Fri 08 May 1931 the Dungog Chronicle reported the purchase of the Bank Hotel in Dungog to Pat O’Neill:

Changes Hands.

The well-known proprietor of the Bank Hotel, Mr. F. G. Makin, has disposed of his business to Mr. Pat. O’Neill, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herb. O’Neill, of Taree. Mr. Makin’s health has been causing him considerable worry and anxiety and it is his intention to rest for some months. During their sojourn in this town Mr. and Mrs. Makin, and their son-in-law and daughter (Mr. and Mrs. E. A. Beer) have helped in all movements, charitable, sporting and public, and have made a wide circle of appreciative friends. They maintained a high standard of efficiency in their business which enjoyed popularity throughout the coast.

No name is better known along the line in connection with hotels than that of the O’Neill’s. The family originally came from Brookfield, and in consequence Mr. Pat. O’Neill is no stranger here. It is expected that the license will be transferred on Tuesday next, when the new proprietor will take over.

In approving of the transfer of the license, the Magistrate, Mr. Oram, added that “he hoped and was sure from what he knew of Mr. O’Neill and where he came from, that he would be able to keep the hotel up to the high standard that had been observed during the last few years” (Fri 15 May 1931). 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.

In 1931 Pat was involved in two car accidents, the first of which could have been more serious,as reported on Fri 15 May 1931:

Car Capsizes.

When Mr. and Mrs. Pat. O’Neill and baby were coming from Taree on Monday by car in order to take over the Bank Hotel, they had a narrow escape on the hill about a mile south of the old accommodation house at Ward’s River. Mr. Terry O’Brien was also with them and the car contained a big load of luggage.

Just as Mr. O’Neill was applying the brakes the front wheels locked, either through the application or through the loss of a U-bolt. The car gradually veered off to the edge of the bank and was practically at a stand still when it overbalanced as gently as if pushed over by hand. It is a closed-in model with steel hood and it lay on its back with wheels uppermost.

Another car was at the spot just at the time, and willing helpers soon had Mrs. O’Neill, baby and Mr. Johnson out through the windows. Mr. O’Neill was jammed behind the steering wheel but was released. Not one of the party suffered a scratch and not an article in the luggage was broken, nor even were the windows or windscreen smashed.

Some acid dripped from the battery down Mr. O’Neill’s shoes and sox and ate through these, but his skin was not effected.

One lucky feature of the accident was the fact that the car did not catch fire. As Mr. O’Neill was being pulled out, the patent cigarette lighter attached to the car became turned on. When noticed a few minutes later a flame was issuing from it and nearby the benzine was running down from the inverted tank. It was a very lucky escape.

The car was put on its wheels again and driven on to Stroud where adjustments were made, and it then came on to Dungog. Practically no damage was done, and the occupants were not the slightest bit effected by their experience.

The second accident, reported just six weeks later, on Tue 30 Jun 1931:

On Saturday afternoon, at the corner of Brown and Lord Streets, cars driven by Mr. Pat. O’Neill and Mr. W. Brown, respectively, came into collision. Fortunately no great amount of damage was done.

A third motor vehicle incident had Pat on the rescue side. From the report on Tue 23 Jun 1931:


Mr. Herb. Mate left his Oldsmobile standing in Hooke Street, opposite Mr. Gordon White’s garage. After he had walked away it was noticed by Mr. Pat. O’Neill of the Bank Hatel, that the car was moving. Pat sprinted after it, but the car was too quick. It ran down the slope, off the road, passed between a telegraph post and a tree with only inches to spare, turned around and came to a full stop without any damage being done. Mr. Mate was lucky.

An amusing incident involving Pat and a a motor car was reported on Fri 14 Aug 1931:


On Wednesday afternoon an Essex Sedan was travelling into town and when opposite the Bank Hotel a rear tyre went ‘bang.’ The car pulled up and a nail was found in the rubber. The driver placed his ‘jack’ under the axle but it would not work. A number of onlookers, full of sympathy gazed at the puzzled visitor. One of them jocularly suggested that he should lift the heavily laden vehicle. Mr. Pat. O’Neill, Proprietor of the Bank Hotel, came out and greeted the visitor. He was handed the ‘jack’ and told to put it under the axle. The visitor quietly and calmly lifted up the back of the car and Pat. did the rest. The bystanders gazed. One of them found that his eyes stuck out so far in amazement that he had to push them back. The visitor was none other than Don. Athaldo, strongest man in Australia. He was on his way from Wauchope to Sydney.

Pat had an aptitude for sport, as a competitor, an offical and a promoter. Here are some examples:

Tue 14 Jul 1931 as a football linesman:


Dungog’s full back, Hodges, had a narrow escape from death in Saturday’s game. He was running down the line and slipped. In his fall he carried away the legs of the linesmen, Messrs. Pat. O’Neill and Gerald Dalton, who both fell heavily on him. Had he slipped on the other line where the linesmen were Messrs. Jack McLeod (21 stone) and Roy Jones (18 stone) he would have been crushed to death. Yes, it was a very narrow escape.

Fri 27 Nov 1931 as a player:


Great interest centred in the billiard tournament at the Soldiers’ Memorial Club and the final was played on Monday night between Messrs Pat. O’Neill and Clyde Morris. The former won by 25.

Fri 10 Jun 1932, on football:


Judging by the big crowd that at tended Monday’s games, football is in the boom again. Followers of the sport state that they had not seen such a high class game since 1914. Secretary Roy Jones is very pleased, as also is Mr. Pat. O’Neill, who was responsible for bringing the Taree OId Bar boys down.

Fri 08 Jul 1932, as a timber cutter:

William Edwards, 84, who died recently in Nambucca, had the reputation of being the best timber squarer on the North Coast in his prime. At one time a contest was staged at Beechwood between Edwards and Pat. O’Neill, when a 30ft. 12 x 12 girder was squared in two hours and 14 minutes. Edwards won by 20 minutes.

Tue 12 Jul 1932, as a golfer:


During tho week-end the championship qualifying round was played. Those who qualified were the following:- Slade 87, Elcoate 90, Dark 91, Eldridge 98, Johns 100, Wood 101, Mc Leod 106, Scott-Smith 107. A stroke competition, run in con nection with the above was won by Scott-Smith with a net 71. The flag competition had an unusual ending. Johns had one stroke left at tlie first tee in the second round. His ball hit a tree and could not be found.

Consequently he stuck his flag on the tee. Mr. Pat. O’Neill, of the Bank Hotel, also had a stroke left at the same tee. All that Pat. needed do was take out his putter and hit the ball a short distance. But not he. Selecting his driver he essayed a mighty hit – and missed. Therefore he and Johns tied, and Dave won the toss off.

Tue 19 Jul 1932, still on golf:

Dungog team comprising Messrs. Dark, Slade, Elcoate, Elliott, Woods and Johns visited Taree during the week-end, and contested the Cropley Shield competition. They were not successful, finishing sixth. Last year they were runners-up. Mr. Pat. O’Neill accompanied the players to his old home town. He is now a devotee of the game and has bid good-bye to football and cricket.

Mr. George Quinn intends bringing a party of golfers from Wyong on the first Saturday in August. They will engage the locals in moral combat.

Fri 16 Dec 1932, on fishing:

… Messrs. A. S. Borthwick and Pat. O’Neill are amongest those who are trying their luck with the rainbow trout. …

Tue 05 Sep 1933, on stock drafting:


The Pat. O’Neill Ladies’ Stock Draft brought forth sixteen competitors, and some fine riding was seen. Following were the points and results: …

Tue 07 Jan 1936, on racing:


Dungog sportsmen are delighted to learn the success of Mr. Les Oakley who won the Hastings District Cup at Port Macquarie last week with Moa Gab. The price 5 to 2 was very acceptable and followers of the stable brought home some foreign capital. The cup is a handsome one and will go to the owner, Mr. R. L. Fitzgerald. Trainer Schnapper Marsh had the candidate in excellent form. Mr. Pat O’Neill, of the Bank Hotel, Dungog, motored a party up for the races.

The Dungog Chronicle carried a number of amusing snippets involving Pat.

On Tue 31 May 1932 in its Current News column:

Dungog is growing rapidly. Between J. A. Jones’ residence and Bennett bridge on the one side and Pat O’Neill’s on the other, there are 52 children. Pat cannot enthuse over the result, as his contribution to the 52 is 1.

The residents in this area may apply for a new school to be erected on the site. In this area there are 14 homes, seven of which are without children.

On Fri 03 Jun 1932, Pat was chosen to compete in an ugly man competition in conjunction with the Ladies’ Auxiliary Hospital ball.

On Tue 31 Jan 1933:


Mr. Pat. O’Neill returned from Port Macquarie on Saturday looking more like a lobster than anything else. He was fishing in the surf on Thursday and forgot about the sun. Don’t slap him on the back when you meet him.

On Fri 31 Mar 1933:


A turkey had a black snake bailed up in the yard of the Bank Hotel on Monday, just at the foot of the stairway. Mr. Pat. O’Neill, the Proprietor, sided with the turkey, and they won. The snake measured 3 ft. 6in, and it did not escape from a bottle either.

On Fri 07 Jul 1933:

The Solo Dance.

In the report of the recent Catholic ball, the names of three excellent workers were inadvertently omitted, namely Mrs. J. Cavanagh, Miss Ellen Quinn and Miss Mary Kerr. A very pleasant interlude during the ball was the solo dance of Miss Sheila Kingston who is a pupil of Miss Alethea Abbott. Her dancing was greatly appreciated.

It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it appeared so when little two-year-old Pauline, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Pat O’Neill, who was attending her first juvenile ball, glided out into the centre of the hall which was in darkness and commenced to imitate the dancer on the stage. It was some time before she was noticed in the dim light and the applause she received only stimplated her actions.

On Tue 22 May 1934:


‘Truth’ newspaper comments as follows:-

“Known from the North Coast to the metropolis as one of Nature’s gentlemen, Pat O’Neill, mine host of the Bank Hotel at Dungog, blew into Newcastle during the week to answor an S.O.S. from one of his friends.”

“Pat lives up to the old motto, ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’.”

On Tue 09 Apr 1935:


Many Dungogites were nearly ‘stung’ at Pat. O’Neill’s Bank Hotel on Saturday afternoon. It was no reflection on their sobriety however, nor on the quality of the beer provided by the genial Pat. It appears some of the bees of the district came to town for the show festivities and a large number of them found the atmosphere so sweet at the Bank Hotel, that they invaded the bar. It was a rare treat to witness some of the customers swallowing their favourite beverage and dodging an attentive bee at the same time. ‘Silver’ received a beautiful sting and promptly helped himself to four pots of nourishing beer – to lessen the effects. Pat. declares it was he who was ‘stung’ in that deal.

A charge of allowing people on his premises after hours was dismissed, as reported on Fri 13 Jan 1933:

Patrick Alfred O’Neill, licensee of the Bank Hotel was charged with having persons on his premises during prohibited hours. A plea of not guilty was entered and Mr. A. S. Borthwick appeared for the defendant and Sergt. Jackson conducted the case for the Police.

Constable C. W. Houlahan deposed that at 7.50 p.m. on 12th November last, he walked in the front door of the Bank Hotel. Mrs. O’Neill was sitting in an easy chair outside. As he entered the door he saw a man come quickly in the back door of the hall way and go into the passage leading to the dining room. Just then Constable Hollingshed came in from the back entrance with two men.

To Mr. Borthwick: The front door of the hotel was shut. I mean it was the swinging doors that were shut. I did not claim the right to inspect the lodgers book. I had no reason to doubt that the licensee did not know that these persons were on the premises.

Constable Hollingshed gave evidence of catching two men coming out of the back of the hotel whilst another ran back in.

To Mr. Borthwick: The men he grabbed happened to be travellers. Two others were not travellers. He did not hear the licensee say to one of the men “What the hell are you doing here?” He heard him say he had been working in the cellar.

Patrick Alfred O’Neill deposed that he finished tea about 7 p.m. and went to the bar to clean up. After his meal he did not serve any drinks to anyone. He was still working in the bar when his wife came in and said Constable Houlahan wanted to see him about fixing up bail for some men. He left the bar. He had not seen the man the police were questioning. He did not know that he or the others were on the premises. He had taken all necessary precautions to keep people from the hotel who were not entitled to be there. He and his wife were hurrying to the pictures that night.

To Mr. Borthwick: This is the first time that I have been prosecuted since I have been licensee of a hotel.

To the Bench: Up to the time that the police called, I had not served any liquor after hours that night.

Evidence was also given by Frank O’Brien, barman.

Case dismissed.

Then on Fri 16 Nov 1934 it was reported that Pat had been fined, without a conviction being recorded, for allowing two men in the premise after hours.

Nominal Fine for Licensee.

At the Dungog Palice Court on Tuesday before Mr. F. Grugeon, P.M. Patrick Alfred O’Neill, licensee of the Bank Hotel, Dungog, was charged with having allowed persons on his premises during prohibited hours.

Mr. Borthwick appeared for defendant, who pleaded guilty.

Constable Smith stated that the two men who had been dealt with in the court that morning were the men concerned. When he found the men on the premises he asked for the licensee and he was taken to him, where he found O’Neill in his office entering up his books. The door leading from the passage to the office was locked, and the office itself was latched.

Mr. Borthwick: Had the licensee in your opinion, taken all necessary precautions to prevent persons being unlawfully on the premises.

Yes. The licensee invited me to inspect the bar and parlours, which I did and there was no sign of any drink having been served.

The P. M.: If the facts are as stated and there is no other evidence, the case should never have been brought to court.

Sergeant Jackson: The Act says the licensee must police his premises and keep off unlawful persons. These men were on the premises.

The P.M.: That position is quite opposed to reason.

The P.M.: How are these premises with regard to after-hour trading?

Sergeant Jackson: There is a considerable amount of after-hour trading, but the premises are otherwise well conducted.

A fine of 2/-, with 8/- costs was imposed, the P. M. adding that he would not record a mark against the house or the licensee for the purposes of the Act.

Sergeant Jackson stated he would withdraw a second similar charge against the defendant.

Pat had a short holiday “up north” early 1935 (reported on Tue 12 Mar 1935):

Mr. Pat. O’Neill, popular licensee of the Bank Hotel, Dungog, has returned after an enjoyable holiday up north. ‘Pat’ is well branded by the sun and open air and looks a ball of muscle. Anyone can have full details of the trip by calling on him between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily (Sundays excepted).

He appears to have had a longer holiday in Fiji. From The Maitland Daily Mercury, Thu 15 Aug 1935:

Mr. Pat O’Neill, of the Bank Hotel, Dungog, intends sailing shortly for Suva with his brother Jack and his uncle (Mr. W. Thompson).

Soon after, he sold his hotel license to move to Sydney, as reported on Tuesday 21 January 1936:

Mr. Pat O’Neill, popular Dungog hotelkeeper was the guest of the Soldiers’ League and Memorial Club in conjunction at an informal farewell evening on Saturday last, prior to his departure for Artarmon where he has purchased a hotel.

The license was for the Great Northern Hotel in Chatswood (The Sydney Morning Herald, Thu 30 Jan 1936). Pat generally appointed a manager for the hotel; from The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 2 Jun 1945:

Mr. and Mrs. Vic Bench, of Artarmon, have been holidaying here. Mr. Bench is manager of Mr. Pat O’Neill’s hotel at North Sydney.

Sadly, Pat and Rita divorced in 1939. From The Daily Telegraph on Wed 29 Mar 1939:

Ups And Downs
Of Beer Trade

Beer sales rose during the last heat wave, but fell again as soon as the weather became cool.

This was stated in a publican’s affidavit, read yesterday before the Registrar in Divorce (Mr Body).

The publican was Patrick Alfred O’Neill, licensee of the Great Northern Hotel, Chatswood.

Rita Clare O’Neill, petitioner in a divorce suit against O’Neill, was granted £10 a week alimony pending hearing of the suit.

Free Beer — £5 A Week

She alleged in an affidavit that the takings at the Great Northern Hotel were £600 a week, and that O’Neill s net Income was £40 a week.

O’Neill, in evidence, stated that increased bottle trade had reduced his gross profit.

Bottled beer sales were 40 per cent, of the trade – five dozen bottles to every barrel.

In an industrial suburb the ratio would be half a dozen bottles to a barrel.

Free beer for customers cost him £5 a week.

On Sat 14 Feb 1948 in the Dungog Chronicle came this article:


Vigilance of the C.I.B. Northern Wireless Patrol saved Mr. Pat O’Neill, licensee of the Great Northern Hotel, Chatswood, from possible asphyxiation early on Thursday.

Passing the hotel in Pacific High way at 3 a.m., Detectives Morgan, Dingwell and McDonald noticed smoke pouring from an upstairs window.

Unable to awaken O’Neill, who was in the room asleep, the detectives threw gravel against another window and roused a woman. The party rushed to O’Neill’s room and found him semi-conscious, with his pillow and bedclothes smouldering from a dropped cigarette. O’Neill was dragged clear and Lane Cove Fire Brigade was called to extinguish the fire. Mr. O’Neill was formerly licensee of the Bank Hotel, Dungog.

Dungog Chronicle : Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, 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.

From the Dungog Chronicle, Fri 26 Jul 1946:

It will be learned with regret that Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Long Flat, is ill in Leamington Private Hospital, his condition causing members of the family grave concern. Mr. O’Neill, who is commonly known as the ‘grand old gentleman,’ is one of the best known personalities on the North Coast, and he enjoys not only great popularity, but the keen respect of a wide circle of friends, who wish him a speedy recovery. Miss Maud O’Neill, a daughter, of Long Flat, has come to Kempsey to be near her father, while a nephew, Mr. Pat O’Neill, of Chatswood, arrived this morning, bringing with him Mr. Herb O’Neill, of Port Macquarie. — ‘Argus.’

Pat sold the license for the Great Northern in 1953: 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.

Pat & Rita’s family:

01. Rita Pauline (b. 13 Feb 1931, d. 18 Dec 2020), known as Pauline

02. Barbara Clare (b. 06 Jan 1933, d. 09 Dec 2018), known as Clare

Clare and Pauline

Early Wingham days, with Myra (aged 9) and Pat (aged 5)

Clare and Pauline with Rita

Pauline and Clare with Pat; and with Rita:

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