Edgar Ronald O’Neill (1918-1994)
Sheila Hudson (1919-1968)
Edgar Ronald O’Neill was the younger son of James Edward O’Neill & Annie ELizabeth Turner, He was born in Marrickville on 02 June 1918. Edgar would have gone to a number of schools as Jim moved from school to school. Friends new him as Eddie, older family members as “goog”, as in “googy egg” – Aussie slang for an egg and an obvious play on his name.
Sheila Hudson was the only child of Joseph William Hudson & Annie Walden. She was born in Edgbasten, England on 13 Dec 1919 and taken as an infant to New York before arriving aged 9 in Sydney, Australia. The family lived in Coogee until Sheila left school, then moved to Double Bay.
1. Annie with Sheila; 2. Sheila at Asbury Park, New Jersey 1924;
3. Sheila in her new home in Coogee, NSW, about 1930;
4. Sheila and her grandmother Clara Walden on her 70th birthday, NY 1924
Sheila attended Sydney Girls’ High School located in the Moore Park grounds on the outskirts of Sydney’s Surrey Hills. There are two articles in The Sydney Morning Herald that mention Sheila. One was for a prize awarded in her Third Year (Wed 12 Dec 1934); the other describing Sheila as Head Prefect of Sydney Girls’ High School and one of five Sydney students who met a touring group of thirty students from West Australia (Tue 5 Jan 1937).
Eddie and Sheila met at Sydney Teachers College and married on 12 Jan 1940. From the Catholic Freeman’s Journal, Thu 25 Jan 1940:
Rev. Father R. Lopez, M.S.C., celebrated the marriage with Nuptial Mass at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, Randwick, on Monday, January 15, of Miss Sheila Hudson, only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. Hudson, of Coogee, to Mr. Edgar O’Neill, son of Mr. and Mrs. James O’Neill, of Kogarah. A reception was afterwards held at the Coogee Bay Hotel.
From late 1940 to the end of 1941 there was a flurry of newspaper reports on Eddie’s golfing achievements in Lithgow, however we have not yet found evidence of his appointment to a school there, but believe it to be Oakey Park School. Eddie was then appointed to a one-teacher school at Cobbora, a tiny country town near Dunedoo, some 360 km north west of Sydney; Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative, Thu 5 Feb 1942:
New teacher at Cobbora subsidised school is Mr. Edgar O’Neill from Lithgow. who arrived this week. He replaces Mr. J. Smith, who has joined the A.I.F. Mrs. O’Neill, wife of Mr. O’Neill, will be arriving later.
Cobbora, marked with flag
Sheila, c 1941; and with Annie
Eddie & Sheila made good friends of Dave and Nance Nott who farmed at Cobborra and lived close to the school house. Eddie often described how he and Dave would practise their golf shots by hitting balls to each other from their respective paddocks. The Nott’s farm was also an enjoyable holiday location for Eddie and Sheila’s children over their early years.
The Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative occasionally reported on Eddie’s time at this school. On Thu 18 Jul 1946:
COBBORA v. ELONG
At a picnic day held on Friday, July 5, Elong school visited Cobbora to compete for the Talbragar Shield.
The Cobbora school pupils proved successful and won the shied permanently. The winning margin, however, was only five points, and the Elong pupils are to be congratulated on their excellent effort. At afternoon tea time they were behind 25 points.
Some very fine performances were made, particularly in the jumping events. Geoff Webster (Elong) won the senior high jump with 4ft. 3in. while R. Conliffe (Cobbora) won the senior broadjump. O. Bailey (Elong) easily won the senior girls’ high jump with 4ft., together with the broad jump.
The most amusing events were the novelty races. The Cobbora champion, nine-year-old Noeline Nott, thrilled everybody by deadheating with I. Rindflesh (Elong). R. Larkins (Cobbora) had a runaway win in the boys’ sack race.
The junior relay was a great race, Cobbora just scrambling home with the bacon. Elong won the senior, and showed Cobbora how to pick up oranges in the orange race.
Peter Nott (Cobbora) showed great speed to win the junior championship over 100 yards. V. Hogan (Elong) won the senior championship. The overhead and tunnel ball were evenly contested.
A race for tiny tots was an invention, and this was easily won by Lynette Nott, aged 4.
Afternoon tea was provided by the ladies, after which each child was given apples, lollies and soft drink.
At the end of the day Mr. O’Neill announced the results of the day’s efforts. He stated that it was pleasing to see these inter-school competitions. Children in small schools do not get sufficient competition, and the manner in which both schools entered into the competition, demonstrating that friendly, fighting spirit, was very pleasing.
Mr. Bradford responded on behalf of Elong, and presented the shield to R. Conliffe, captain of Cobbora school, who suitably responded.
Eddie wrote the following letter to the Editor (dated 29 7 46) of the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative and it was printed on Thu 08 Aug 1946:
(Eddie with Philip)
Sir, — It seems, a pity that such a small community as Cobbora is not free from the attentions of one of those unhappy people who poison household pets.
This morning my dog accompanied me as usual on my morning duties, followed by my infant son. As at no time did the dog wander or go further than a quarter of a mile from the school, it is apparent that the poisoner could have no other prey in mind.
The fact that my son was with the dog means that he, or any of the small toddlers around, could have picked up the bait as easily as the dog.
Apart from any such danger to humans, the callous deed is abhorrent to decent-minded people, and, in this house, the grief that has been suffered over the agonising death has been that for a faithful friend and plaything.
I have strong suspicions as to whom the culprit is, and if I ever find proof that these are correct I shall take immediate action.
I am, etc. ,
EDGAR R O’NEILL,
Cobbora Public School.
Edgar O’Neill was appointed as a Justice of the Peace (see the report on Thu 25 Jul 1946).
Dave Nott was one of those who spoke at Eddie and Shiela’s farewell celebration; from the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative on Mon 23 Dec 1946:
Mr. and Mrs. E. O’Neill
At the Christmas Tree party at Cobbora last Wednesday, a presentation was made to Mr. and Mrs. Edgar ONeill and small son, Philip, who are leaving the district. Mr. O’Neill, who has been in charge of the Cobbora Public School for the past four years, has received a transfer to the city, and Cobbora residents took the opportunity of giving him and his family a fitting farewell.
Mr. M. Lugsdin took the chair, and apologised for the unavoidable absence of his brother, Mr. J. Lugsdin, president of the P. and C. Association at Cobbora. He then said that he, personally, very much regretted the departure from the district of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill, who had been very good citizens and had worked so well for all local causes. Edgar would be sadly missed from the golf, cricket and tennis clubs in both Dunedoo and Cobbora.
Mr. C. M. Blake endorsed Mr. Lugsdin’s remarks, and said that he had greatly enjoyed the concert presented that evening. The standard was excellent and showed that Mr. O’Neill must have persevered greatly to instill into his young pupils such poise and assurance. If kept up in the future this would be a great asset to the children in later years.
On behalf of the parents, Mrs. Roberts expressed gratitude to Mr., and Mrs. O’Neill for their untiring efforts in teaching the children. Mrs. O’Neill always took a great deal of interest in her husband’s work. Mrs. Roberts said that the display last week-end of both boys and girls showed that they had learned many things that would be useful to them all their lives.
Mr. Colin Medcalf, speaking on behalf of the Catholic community, apologised for the absence of Rev. Fathers Curran and Maher. He. said that Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill would be greatly missed from Cobberra, as they were wonderful workers for all church functions. He hoped that Mr. O’Neill, would come back to Cobbora when a High School was established there. (Laughter).
Mr. Dave Nott spoke on behalf of the cricket club, and said that the club was very sorry to be losing Edgar, but hoped that he would be back one day to knock up another century for the side.
His remarks were warmly supported by Mr. Jack Craft.
All the speakers were unanimous in wishing Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill every success and happiness in the future.
A presentation of a bouquet to Mrs. O’Neill was made by Helen Conliffe, after which Mr. Evans presented young Philip with a silver egg cup as a gift from the school children, Mrs. O’Neill with a silver sweets dish, and Mr. O’Neill with a wallet containing £16/12/-, a gift of the people of Cobbora and Dunedoo district.
Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill both responded ably, and said that they had greatly enjoyed their stay at Cobbora. They were sorry to be leaving, but hoped that their many friendships would continue, and that those friends would take the opportunity to call in and visit them at Sydney when possible.
Mr. O’Neill said that he hoped the children would write to him, as he was greatly interested in their future careers, and he sincerely thanked all those who contributed to the presentations made that evening.
[An article on Thu 12 Dec 1946 reports that Eddie was 109 not out in a cricket game between Cobbora and the Dunedoo Colts. Eddie also took two catches, and Dave Nott himself bowled 4 of the opposition batsmen.]
An article in the Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative on Thu 23 Oct 1947 announcing the birth of Eddie and Sheila’s second son [the author of these webpages] also indicated Eddie’s new appointment to a school in Granville in Sydney’s west:
Friends of Mr. and Mrs. Edgar O’Neill will to interested to hear that they are the proud parents of a second son, born on September 13 at a private hospital at Hurstville, Sydney. Mr. ONeill, who was in charge of the Cobbora Public School for four years, was transferred to Granville at the end of last year.
Eddie had applied to go to University and in 1947 they purchased a house at Gymea (6 Chapman St, between The Kingsway and the railway station). Eddie did not complete his studies, however. He was appointed as a teacher at Sutherland Public School and promoted to Deputy Principal. After several years at this school he moved to East Jannali Public School and finally to Laguna St Public School at Caringbah, from where he retired. We came across a wonderful tribute that a former public, Neil Whitfield, wrote about Eddie, describing him as an outstanding teacher (published with permission):
Grade 6 1954
The second principle Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game derive from their corpus of interviews is:
Good teaching recognises the unique potential of each student. This is not the same as an expectation or a prediction; it is seeing students in their wholeness, as they are now. The teacher’s responsibility is to nurture students and draw out their potential by opening them to new worlds. Thus teaching is inherently ethical, allowing students to find their place in and to contribute to the world.
I would like to name Mister O’Neil, my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Public School (or Sutherland Boys Primary as it was then, now a “special” school) in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit. I still vividly remember (among other things) going with my maternal grandfather — another inspiring teacher — through the fence and beside the track to wait for the (then) sheer magic of seeing the Royal Train go through, and Mister O’Neil rehearsed us over and over to perform appropriate songs, including a late Vera Lynn called “She’s the Queen of Everyone’s Hearts”, at the Sutherland School of Arts, where my mother won an electric jug in a raffle.
World War II was after all less than ten years before; indeed I was enrolled at Sutherland in 1949. My father had been in the RAAF.
The thing about Mister O’Neil is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.
When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that. Well, Mister O’Neil I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.
But hats off to Mr O’Neil. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated. By his complexion I suspect he may have enjoyed the odd bevvie too… At a time when many schools, especially boys schools, were “houses of swinging bamboo”, I can’t recall seeing him actually cane anyone either. I remember him with gratitude. Mind you, I don’t think I ever have quite fulfilled that potential, and at going on 65 it may be a bit late…
Eddie was certainly a man who like a drop (or two, or three) but he never showed any effects apart from his “complexion”. He also liked to place an each way bet on probably every race that was run. It certainly was difficult for Sheila who bore the brunt of rearing their children. Sadly, Sheila became dependent on the infamous Bex (an APC powder, short for aspirin, phenacetin, and caffeine) and suffered a stroke in 1968 from which she did not recover. She died on 28 Jan 1968.
Sheila with her youngest, Paul
Sheila, second from right, front row, in a Review, 1965
Edgar & Sheila’s family:
01. Peter James, born and died 11 Feb 1943, Cobbora NSW, quite premature and without medical support.
02. Philip Joseph (19 Sep 1944 at Gulgong NSW, d. 03 Jul 2020 at Gymea NSW)
03. Michael Edward (13 Sep 1947, )
04. Nancy Elizabeth (30 May 1949, )
05. Christopher John (14 Dec 1952)
06. Paul Anthony (14 Jun 1959)
Some years after Sheila’s death Eddie married Colleen Calcott. Eddie died in hospital on 16 Mar 1994. Over his latter years he had had three hip replacement operations, and had been treated for prostate cancer. The cause of death may have been a blood clot, although he was also suffering from pneumonia at the time.