PJ O’Neill

Patrick Joseph O’Neill (1857-1947)
Ann Mary Hough

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Patrick Joseph O’Neill was the second oldest of 12 children that Patrick O’Neill and Elizabeth Lulham had together. He was known simply as “P. J.” by family and friends alike. He was born on 20 Aug 1857 in Brookfield, about 10 km away from Clarence Town, NSW. In a nostalgic visit he made to Brookfield 88 years later, it was reported (Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser on Fri 18 May 1945):


Mr. P. J. O’Neill, well-known grazier, from the Macleay River, has been the guest of Mrs. James Walsh, Brookfield, and spent a happy time meeting old friends. Mr. O’Neill was born at Brookfield almost 88 years ago in the ‘old brick cottage’ which his grandfather built. The building later became the Convent. At the age of three the family moved to Bullahdelah, but he was sent back to Brookfield to school, as no such facilities were available in Bullahdelah district. The brick building was the social centre and he attended dances there. The main room was used on Sundays for church purposes, and he attended Mass there. Later, his sister was a Nun there. This is surely a unique record.

Hale and hearty and as active as any “young ‘un,'” Mr. O’Neill still rides the paddocks. When he is not riding, he is gardening. He says he never learnt how to rest, except when tired out and fatigued. His brother, Herb, is still going strong and attends the sales at Long Flat and elsewhere. Whilst in Brookfield, the visitor spent a pleasant evening with his old friend, Mr. Gus Carlton.

P. J. started out as a butcher, and it was while working around Stroud and Booral that he met Ann Mary Hough, of Tea Gardens. Annie, as she was known, was one of John Hough & Catherine Newton’s children, born on 31 Jul 1865. They married at her home in Tea Gardens on 28 Dec 1885. The couple lived for a short time in Taree, where P. J. opened up a butchering business, before moving to the Macleay River district. The earliest record is on 31 Apr 1894, P. J. reportedly suing a John Worrall for trespass on land he owned at Morton’s Creek, about 8 km NE of Beechwood or about 36 km from Port Macquarie, NSW. On 29 Aug 1891, P. J. paid $725 for G.F.Craig’s 80ac land on which stands the Beechwood Hotel. He must have previously purchased the Carrington Hotel, Beechwood, because on 16 Sept 1893 he was reported to have sold it to an Arthur Henry of Wauchope; the date may be incorrect, since the hotel burned down in 1888.

P. J. set up a butchering and then an auctioneering business in Beechwood. These ads appeared in The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 31 May 1902 and Sat 03 Jan 1903 resp.:

Butcher ad in Beechwood Auctioneer ad

P. J. and Annie became local identities. P. J. in particular was heavily involved in community affairs at every level. He appears to have been a critic of Federation, because P. J. had a Letter to Editor (referenced in a RootsWeb request, still to be checked):

Increased taxation will be £1/2/6 per head. Say a family like mine, of nine, will be £10/2/6. What am I going to get for this? I will get 26 more members of Parliament in the House of Reps at £400 each per annum – £10,400. Also about £1 million to be expended in Federal buildings to be built somewhere. What a blessing these things are for the working man. At the present, it takes Government all their time to make the expenditure come under the revenue. With £750,00 extra expenditure under Federation, and our revenue no more increased, what a time we will have… If we vote for Federation, we will bind ourselves to a dangerous thing we do not yet understand. If we vote against the bill, we leave ourselves free under the finest constitution in the world. We should be slow to peddle away our freedom and put our neck in the hard and fast noose of federation. No matter how it may work, all of our heads must come off once we put it on..

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate reported on a racing event on Sat Sat 16 Nov 1895 as follows:

That enterprising sportsman, Mr. P. J. O’Neill, provided a very nice little programme of three events, which was run off on the Beechwood course on Saturday afternoon last. About 160 persons, on pleasure bent, assembled to witness the racing, and with the exception of one or two nasty jars, which although provoking perhaps to the main actors, were very amusing to the spectators, everything passed off remarkably well. …

Then on Sat 03 Feb 1900 this article appeared:

The Ohio Coons at Beechwood.
THE contemplated visit of the Ohio Coons to Beechwood, to give an entertainment in aid of the N. S. Wales Patriotic Fond, took place on Friday last (Anniversary Day).

Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill, the popular host and hostess of the Beechwood Hotel, did much to assist the members of the Troupe through with the entertainment; they lent their piano and the hall, and were extremely kind in providing tea and supper free of charge.

Always with an eye for business, P. J. had extensions made to the hotel. From the Sat 31 Aug 1901 edition:

In the way of improvements, Mr. P. J. O’Neill is enlarging his concert hall, and also placing a stage therein. He has also pulled up the old floor, and is replacing it with new 4 in. flooring. When these additions and improvements are completed, the hall will be up-to-date for concert or dancing purposes. The Beechwood hotel is being enlarged by two extra rooms.

and from the Sat 14 Sep 1901 edition:

We noticed on passing through Beechwood on Saturday last that Mr. P. J. O’Neill is having erected extensive cattle Sale yards near his hotel. Mr. O’Neill evidently intends to go into cattle sales, on a large scale.

P. J. and Annie acquired Beechwood and Yarras, two fine grazing properties on the Hastings, and raised cattle on them. P. J.’s business activities took him in other directions, for 09 Feb 1907 he placed an ad saying As I have sold my baking business at Beechwood to Mr. Hunter, of Wauchope – thanks to customers support.

On 05 Oct 1901 it was reported that P. J. had donated land for a School of Arts near his new sale yards. He also became its first President. He was a member and at times President of the Beechwood Progress Committee, the Wauchope Jockey club and the Port Macquarie Jockey Club. He was a committee member of the Upper Hastings Agricultural Association and of the Port Macquarie Agricultural Association. He was on the Hospital Committee and a Director of the Hastings District Dairy Co-Op. He was President of the Hastings Shire Council after its formation. There are more than 1,000 articles and advertisements in local newspapers of the time involving P. J. and his family, so what is shown here is just a sample:

On SSat 15 Nov 1902, P. J. was present and spoke at a welcome-home celebration of four local lads who had volunteered for the Boer War. It is an instructive article to read, with an insight into the way Australians viewed our participation in that war. Here is part of that report:


As our readers will remember, the troopers who first returned from the late war were accorded a public welcome; and, in several instances, more tangible mementos, in the shape of medals, watches, chains, etc., were bestowed on them in recognition of the manner in which, in the face of many dangers, they had upheld the traditions of the British flag, and practically proved that, as in peaceful pursuits, the martial spirit of the Australian British was every bit as conspicuous and overpowering as that which animated the native of the British Isles.

However, as troopship succeeded troopship, each bringing back its quota of time expired and invalided soldiers, the novelty wore off, and the last arrivals excited no special interest in the bosom of the general public, and were only met on landing by their more immediate friends and relatives.

The Hastings Ellenborough district was well represented in the late British-Boer war, for two families in this locality contributed four soldiers to the British Army in Africa – Messrs. D. Kennedy, and Jack, Will, and Robert Noakes – all of whom, we are happy to say, returned unscathed by bullet, though not strangers to the insidious fevers that laid low many a gallant fellow. The numerous friends of these young troopers had long since resolved to celebrate their return in a fitting manner, but were debarred from doing so by the slow recovery to convalescence of trooper R Noakes, who spent a very time in hospital, after his voyage in the Drayton Grange. Meanwhile, it was decided that the reception should take the form of a banquet and ball, and this pleasant event took place at Ellenborough (the residence of the Troopers Noakes) where we, as well as several of our local residents, were kindly invited to meet the returned soldiers on the 7th inst. On arrival we at once perceived that extensive preparations had been made to do honor to the occasion. Evergreens and flowers garlanded the walls; the Union Jack hung from the ceiling at one end of the long extemporised dining-hall, while, in a corresponding position at the other end was suspended the flag of Australia – the Union Jack incorporated with the Southern Cross …

Mr. P. J O’Neill had great, pleasure in supporting the toast. He was very proud at having such young men among them. They had gone voluntarily, without even having been asked they had offered their services; he thought this rebounded greatly to their credit. Their parents, he was sure, had cause to be proud of their sons, and the district was to be congratulated on numbering such young men among the residents. Personally, he was proud of their friendship, and it was with great pleasure that he cordially endorsed the proposition of the chairman. (Hear, hear.)…

Mr. P. J. O’Neill, in returning thanks, expressed himself as highly gratified when he had the opportunity of making one at the social gatherings in this district.

In 1903 we see P. J. yet again promoting local community activities, this time in the form of a handicap foot race. From the report published on Sat 31 Jan 1903:

Beechwood Athletic Sports

Beechwood Cricket Ground never was visited by so large a crowd as on Monday last. The attraction was the Sheffield handicap, for which upwards of 60 had nominated, and of these fully 40 had accepted. So the people came – not in dribbles – in crowds, and at luncheon there were fully 500 people on the ground.

As we Stated last week, it was a plucky thing for Mr. P. J. O’Neill (the promoter of the sports) to launch out on his own and offer a £26 prize, but “never venture, never win,” and the public, by its support, showed that it thoroughly appreciated the effort put forth by Mr. O’Neill.

Last week it was decided to make the day more attractive by offering a £6 10s prize for a farewell handicap, and this was done, and brought out 40 nominations and 31 acceptors.

The Port Macquarie Band was on the scene all day, and by the sweet music rendered under the supervision of Mr. Gotting, it gained very high encomiums from the many listeners. Without doubt, such music very pleasantly fills in the blanks which must occur at an athletics meeting.

A friendly race took place between W. W. O’Neill and D. Flick, over 75 yards, and was won by the latter.

THE SETTLING UP took place at O’Neill’s hotel at night, in the presence of a large number, when the following cheques were handed over.
In responding to the toast of the Promoter and Committee, Mr. O’Neill expressed his great pleasure at the success of the meeting, and wished to especially thank the handicappers, starter, judges, secretaries, and all other officials for the way they had assisted him. He must also say he was pleased that local men had won the two big prizes. He had been told that he was doing a risky thing in offering such a large stake, but results had justified the venture, and he trusted to be able to promote a similar meeting in the near future. (Applause)

Mr. Sargeant proposed ‘Our Chairman, Mr. O’Neill,’ and in doing so, commented in high terms on his pluck and enterprise in promoting such a day’s sport, which had been so thoroughly enjoyed by all who had attended. He regretted there were not more men in the district of Mr. P. J. O’Neill’s liberality and business pluck. He had gained his reward that day in the support which had been given to his enterprise. The toast was enthusiastically honored, and the Chairman very briefly replied, thanking all who had assisted at the sports. The singing of Auld Lang Syne concluded a merry and jolly day for Beechwood.

P. J. was a strong advocate for a bridge crossing of the Hastings River, in particular at Cameron’s Falls between Wauchope and Beechwood. He and Annie both had mishaps there, and elsewhere.

Sat 17 Oct 1903:

Cameron’s Falls still remain in a highly dangerous condition, and when someone gets drowned we suppose the authorities will wake up and get something done. It is really disgraceful that a crossing so much used should be left so long in its present condition. On Tuesday last when Mr. P. J. O’Neill was crossing, en route to Port Macquarie, his ponies commenced swimming, and more by good luck than anything else, a serious accident was narrowly averted.

Sat 19 Aug 1905:

On Monday last, while Mr. P. J. O’Neill was proceeding from Port Macquarie to Beechwood, in company with Mrs. O’Neill, be had the ill-luck to lose a bag containing a large sum of money, which he was taking home for change purposes. We are pleased to say it was found the following day – having dropped into the water while crossing Cameron’s Falls.

Sat 2 Dec 1905:

A correspondent writes: What might have been a serious, if not a fatal, accident occurred last Thursday. Mrs P. J. O’Neill, accompanied by her niece and a young child, was driving to Wauchope, and when going up the hill on Cameron’s Falls the horse ‘jibbed’ and backed the sulky on to the flimsy rails of the culvert. It was only presence of mind and pluck that prevented a serious accident, as Mrs O’Neill with child in arms and her lady companion (Miss Feeney) just managed to jump out of the vehicle before it capsized over the culvert. Needless to say both horse and sulky were recovered; but narrow escapes have made this particular spot famous as an accident rendezvous. If the mooted Cameron’s Falls bridge were erected it would prove a genuine boon to travellers…

Lovely rain is falling at the time of writing (Thursday), and 170 points have been registered. The downpour will greatly enhance district prospects.

P. J. was on a committee to encourage the state government to build a bridge crossing. He was one of two who went to Sydney on a deputation to the Minister for Works. Their return was triumphed in The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 26 Apr 1902:

Welcome Home!
To Messrs. D. Bain & P. J. O’Neill.

On Friday night last a complimentary smoke concert was tendered to Messrs. D. Bain, J.P., and P. J. O’Neill, who recently attended as a deputation to the Minister for Works, in reference to the construction of a bridge over the Hastings River at Cameron’s Falls. The affair was under the auspices of the Beechwood Progress Committee, and about 80 gentlemen were present – including visitors from Yarras and Ellenborough, Port Macquarie, and Telegraph Point.

Mr. G. Lindsay occupied the chair, and had on his right the guests of the evening, Messrs. Bain and O’Neill, whilst on his left were Mr. R. Davidson, M.P., and Mr. S. M Cummins.

The Chairman explained the object of the meeting, and called first for the usual loyal toast, ‘His Majesty, the King.’ Mr. Lindsay then proposed ‘Our Guests.’ He said they would all remember that some time ago, agitation had been started for a bridge over Cameron’s Falls, and in response to a request, the Minister for Works had placed a sum of money on the Estimates for its construction. When the Estimates came to be spent, it was found that there was not sufficient money, available to build it. The Beechwood P.A. – a body of workers – decided not to let the matter drop, however, and appointed a deputation to interview the Minister for Works, on the matter. The Committee had chosen wisely in their selection of Messrs. Bain and O’Neill as delegates. They had brought back a favourable report. The delegates had gone down at their own expense – having refused to have their expenses paid – and the Committee had, therefore, taken this means and opportunity of showing their appreciation of the delegates’ work.

Mr. Gardiner supported the toast. They could not have chosen more likely men to get a favourable reply.

Mr. D. Graham said that the delegates had gone to Sydney at great personal inconvenience. They were both public-spirited men – ready, not only to support public matters, but, if needs be, to put their hands in their pockets to do so. He was pleased to see so many present to show their appreciation of the two gentlemen’s worth. He believed that Mr. O’Neill was the first to move in this bridge matter, and he hoped now that this last effort would be successful.

Mr. J. H. Hill said they were indebted to the two gentlemen for the efforts they had put forward to have this bridge constructed. The Bridge would not benefit Beechwood alone, but would be a boon to the whole district as well as to the Manning & Macleay districts. He thought that it would be well if the petty jealousy which had arisen over the bridge question were dropped. He wished to tender a word of advice to Wauchope – the Government would not block navigation if they could help it, and if they did, the bridge would be placed further down the river, therefore, if Wauchope wanted a bridge near them they had better go for one at Cameron’s Falls.

The toast was drunk with musical honours.

Mr. D. Bain, who was treated with deafening, applause, said that as an old warrior in public matters, he was pleased to see such a large attendance, as it showed that they evinced an interest in the greatest public matter with which he was connect, viz., the building of a bridge over Cameron’s Falls. The delegates had had very little to do. When they were introduced by Mr. Davidson, they said very little before Mr. O’Sullivan stopped them, and said, ‘ I don’t need any conversion, as soon as there is any bridge money available, that will be one of the first bridges erected.’ He (the speaker) was honestly convinced that the Minister intended to carry out his promise. And then to show that he was not unmindful of his Wauchope friends – although they thought him a renegade – he asked the Minister how the punt matter was coming along, and received the reply, ‘All right.’ He had never doubted in his own mind but that the bridge would be erected. He returned thanks for the way they had received the toast.

Mr. P. J. O’Neill was enthusiastically cheered as he rose to his feet to respond to the toast. He said that he was not fond of flattery, but it was at least gratifying to know that one’s efforts are appreciated. Seeing that there were men present from the head of the river as well as from Port Macquarie, it showed that the movement was not only one that concerned Beechwood, but would benefit the whole district. He was pleased to have been one of the deputation. He had taken a keen interest in public matters, being mindful of the fact that what benefited the district must also benefit himself. He was sorry that, owing to the little time Mr. Bain and he had at their disposal in Sydney before the deputation, the deputation was not larger. Any how, when they saw the Minister for Works the latter said he saw the necessity of the work, and would build it from the first funds available for bridge work. (Applause.) He again thanked them.

Mr. J. Gardiner proposed, ‘The State Parliament’ to which. Mr. R. Davidson, M.P., responded.

Mr. E. T. Smith proposed “The Public Works Department, coupled with the name of Mr. S. M. Cummins.” The toast was supported by Messrs. J. Gardiner, D. Graham, and P. J. O’Neill, all of whom spoke very highly of Mr. Cummins’ abilities, and the good work he had done since he had come here.

Mr. Cummins, in responding, said that the Public Works Department always strove to do its best in the interests of the people. As the name implied the Works Department was composed of workers, not talkers. He had always done his best. Mr. D. Graham proposed ‘Our Member Mr. R. Davidson,’ He had been a resident of the district for a number of years, and both as a citizen and a public man he had always been actively interested in the welfare of the district. As their Member, he had been very prompt and attentive to any matter which had been forwarded to him, and had done his best. He had to surmount many difficulties, but he felt sure that he would ever do his best, and would always speak and vote honestly, conscientiously, and for the moral welfare of the country.

He hoped his life as a member would be a long and prosperous one. Mr. O’Neill supported the toast. They had never had a member more prompt and attentive to matters forwarded from the Beechwood Progress Committee…

Sat 26 Jul 1902:

Official Correspondence.
Public Works Department, Sydney, July 15, 1902.

Sir, – With reference to the letter dated 19th April last, from the Beechwood Progress Committee (P. J. O’Neill, Esq., hon. secretary) presented by you, asking for a special grant for improvements to the road leading from the Port Macquarie to Walcha Road to the Hastings River, I have the honor, by direction of the Minister, to inform you that provided those interested carry out improvements to the value of £40 and to the satisfaction of the Local Officer the Department will contribute £20 payable, on behalf of those interested, to a person to be nominated by you. I have, etc,
J. Davis, Under Secretary,
H. Davidson, Esq, M.P.

Sat 25 May 1907:

A PUBLIC MEETING was held at Beechwood on May 18th, to consider the advisability of celebrating in a suitable manner the opening of the bridge at the above named place, which will be finished in about six week’s time. Mr. P, J. O’Neill, President of the Shire Council, was in the chair, and explained the object of the meeting. It was decided to hold a picnic during the day and a banquet at night. It was also decided to ask the Minister for Works to be present, as well as our local representative. Invitations are also to be sent to our Federal member, and a number of other distinguished public men, and altogether the function promises to be a memorable one. The following committee has been appointed to carry the arrangements out: …

Finally, on Sat 17 Aug 1907:


A PERFECT day prevailed for the opening of the bridge at Cameron’s Falls on Wednesday last. Large numbers of ladies, gentlemen, and children from all parts of the district began to assemble at the picturesque spot quite early in the day, and by noon there were between 700 and 800 persons present, about 100 having arrived from Port Macquarie in Mr. Walsh’s new launch. The Italian String Band was present, and played selections throughout the day. The bridge is of the low-level type, and stands on Monier cylinders, with concrete arches. It is constructed of beam timber, and contains 6 45ft. and 1 35ft. spans, covering a length or about 300ft., and is enclosed with a hand railing, and is a unique structure, reflecting great credit on the builders. The bridge was formally opened by Mr. E. Davidson, who was introduced by Mr. P. J. O’Neill, at noon, while the christening ceremony was carried out by Mrs. Graham, senr., of Koree Island.

Mr. P. J. O’Neill said he had a very pleasing duty to perform, one of the most pleasant in his life, and that was to say a few words in honor of the opening of the first bridge over the Hastings River. He said be had to apologise for the absence of Messrs. Frank Clarke, ex-M.P., J. H. Young, M.P., John Thomson, M.H.R., and Hugh McKinnon, ex-M. P. He was very pleased to see such a number present; it was a representative gathering, and showed that the whole of the people came to do honor to the bridge. The agitation for it had extended over 15 or 16 years, and was commenced by the Beechwood Progress Committee, and the first thing towards it was the building of a stone crossing, about which a great deal of comment was made; and though it may appear as having been money thrown away, yet to his mind it was not. When the stone was first washed away, it was almost impossible to cross the river but they then had a better chance of pointing out to the Government the necessity for a bridge. There was a great deal of agitation, 8 to 10 years ago, and it was in Mr. Frank Clarke’s time that money was first put on the estimates for this bridge. Then, afterwards Mr. Davidson became the member, and be (the speaker) thoroughly recognised the support and assistance he had given in this matter; he was sure the gentleman never lost sight of it, and he supposed he very often wished the Beechwood Progress Committee to Hong-Kong. However, he succeeded in getting the money, and when once it was voted there was very little time lost. Residents on the north bank were in a serious position before the bridge was built, for at high tide it was not safe to cross the Falls, and if they wanted a doctor or anything urgent they had to get them the best way they could; now they could go across any time through the night. Some people said they should have gone in for a high-level bridge, but this would have cost about double the money, and their chance of getting it would have been much less. He was quite satisfied that it would answer the purpose very well. He thought the present a very opportune time tor the Beechwood people to agitate for a daily mail. There was one person he should have mentioned, and he was sure they all felt as sorry for him as he (tbe speaker) did, and if that gentleman were alive he (the speaker) would not be addressing them that day. He referred to the late Mr. Duncan Bain, who, if he had been alive, would have been President of the Shire Council, and be was sorry he was not alive. He had pleasure in calling on Mr. Davidson to formally open the bridge.

A banquet in honor of the occasion took place at the Beechwood Hotel in the evening, when a very enjoyable time was spent. A full report will appear next week. The committee of management deserve the greatest credit for the able manner in which the whole proceedings were conducted.

P. J. and Annie decided to move to Kempsey, taking over the West Kempsey Hotel from the late Mr. Harry Priddle. The Hastings Shire Gazette carried a notice of a farewell function for the couple to be held prior to their departure on 27 May 1910. A second notice advertised a clearance sale:

We would direct attention to Mr J. Bransdon’s unreserved sale of Mr P.J. O’Neill’s farming implements, carts, furniture etc on Saturday 28th at 2pm.

Soon after they planned a new residence. On Sat 5 Oct 1912 this notice appeared:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill is about to build a new seven-roomed cottage, with a double brick fireplace; the bricks and materials are on the ground. Mr. Turnbull, of Kempsey, is the contractor. He has made a commencement, and by his work seems to be the right man in the right place, and will soon have the cottage erected.

They sold the West Kempsey Hotel in 1917, retiring to their home (which by 1932 had become the Lemington Private Hospital). Later they purchased the Hotel Kempsey. Clearly these were family businesses, as described in a number of travel reports:

From The Catholic Press, Thu 01 Oct 1914:


There is no more popular hotel for travellers than that of Mr. P. J. O’Neill, at West Kempsey. It is a family hotel, and at it one finds every comfort. The rooms, like the catering, are all that could be desired; and the proprietor, knowing every inch of the country, is always able to supply all in formation respecting trips to be taken or sights to see. The commercial traveller finds no hotel at which he gets better attention; and the stabling is good. Mr. O’Neill has acquired fame as a business man of wide experience.

From the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, Fri 02 Oct 1925:

… Put up at the Hotel Kempsey, which by the way is kept by one, P. J. O’Neill, who says he was born in Brookfield and went to school with Mr. Tom Carlton. Hearing I came from Dungog he wanted all particulars and was particularly interested in hearing of our worthy Mayor. All the comforts of home at his place, electric light, sewerage (septic tank), electric fans and mosquitoes, only ones so far on the trip….

From The Maitland Daily Mercury, Tue 10 Apr 1928:

(Written for the Maitland Mercury).
(By F. A. Fitzpatrick)
Article No. 1.

On March 21, 1928, Mr. G. S. Hill, of Bungay, Wingham, and the writer arrived in Kempsey by the early morning train. Kempsey, of course, is the capital of the Macleay – a river, by the way, that, winds its course through some of the finest country in N.S.W. Particularly is this so on the Lower Macleay. The recent flood did a good deal of damage on some of the farms, but not near as much as was at first anticipated. Kempsey is a big town, and an important one. It is divided into three parts – West, Central and East. We found excellent accommodation at the Hotel Kempsey – the destinies of which are ably presided over by Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill and members of their family. Mr. O’Neill is well-known on the Manning, and is a brother to Mr. H. T. O’Neill of Taree.

P. J.’s community and other business interests continued in Kempsey. He entered into a new auctioneering partnership; from The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 06 Oct 1917:

Macleay River.
[from our correspondent.]
Mr. P. J. O Neill has entered into partnership with Mr. E. Weeks as an auctioneer.

He was a fine horseman, and was a permanent judge at the Dungog Show. As with all judges, you cannot please everyone. He had cause to defend himself on one occasion when he and two other judges wrote as follows (Fri 25 May 1917):

Stockriding at the Show
To the Editor.

Sir, We have read a letter published in your paper, under the nom-de-plume of ‘Justice,’ and trust you will grant us space to reply. Your correspondent states he heard the competitors instructed where to put their beast, which is true, but apparently he does not realise that this was merely ‘a means to an end,’ in other words, giving the ladies something to do so as to enable us to judge which lady, in our opinion, gave the best exhibition of stockriding. Perhaps the lady in question was unfortunate that the beast she put round the high jump went so kindly, thus preventing her giving as good an exhibition of stockriding as the two ladies who divided the honors. We are, etc.,


He was active in getting the railway extended to Kempsey, indeed had been pushed for a railway to the North Coast for more than 15 years when it finally arrived in Kempsey. From the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, Fri 30 Nov 1917:

Opening Kempsey Railway

On Wednesday last another link in the proposed railway from Maitland to the Queensland border was officially opened, the link extending from Wauchope to Kempsey, about 34 miles. The people of the Macleay district prepared for the historic event in a grand way and despite the huge crowds and the magnitude of the organising needed, everything in every sphere was conducted to perfection. The line will give carriage facilities to a wonderful district, the Eden of the North, and even thought by some to be the only Eden in Australia. The district is remarkably prosperous, due to the fertility of the soil, and now that the line is opened the whole countryside should be benefited. The river flats, covered with maize, compare with any in the Hunter district, while the potentialities of the land in other respects are well known. Kempsey is a three horse town, or rather is composed of three parts, West, Central and East. The population is more than twice that of Dungog. There is water communication direct with Sydney, the river being navigable for ocean going boats right up to the door of the town. The railway line runs into West Kempsey, where most of the Government offices are. The station is the finest on the line, excluding Maitland and Newcastle, while there are also fine goods and engine sheds, turntable and other appointments From the railway buildings one can judge that it is expected that a very large amount of business will be expected there.

A red letter day is but a poor name for Wednesday in Kempsey. The town was full of people, cars, etc., and the traffic had to be regulated like that of a busy street in Sydney. Special credit is due to the committee, for their good work, comprising Messrs C. A. Lane, Mayor, E. G. Kinghorn, A. C. Parker, J. H. Barsley, J. C. Elton, and P. J. O’Neil…

P. J. appeared on a list of Justices of the Peace for Kempsey (Fri 20 Dec 1918) and as a Deputy Coroner (Sun 1 Jul 1923). As an alderman he was elected Mayor of Kempsey in 1919, and on Tue 8 Apr 1919 the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser ran this tribute:


The Mayor of Kempsey, Ald P. J. O’Neill, is a pure-bred ‘corn-stalk,’ for he was born at Brookfield, on the Williams River, and his father and mother were natives of the same place, says the “Voice of the North.” He went to the Manning after being married and then to the Hastings. He lived 20 years at Beechwood, where he took an interest in all public matters and was one of the leading spirits of the district, as is shown by the fact that when local government came in he was chosen as one of the provisional councillors of Hastings Shire. At the first election he topped the poll and became the first President of the Shire. After three years on the Council he did not seek re-election owing to health reasons. He went to Kempsey 8½ years ago, and was elected to the Municipal Council shortly afterward, but resigned after about a year. After he relinquished business he again came forward as a candidate, and his Mayoral year will be the third year of his present term on the Council. [Mr O’Neill has been a judge at the Dungog Show for many years.]

P. J. and Annie were generous folk, as evidenced by an article Sat 11 Jun 1904:

But one incident happened, which will be of interest and cause regret to many old hands, and I must apologise for not forwarding the same before. On May 15th, there passed away, after living the allotted span of life, Mr. P. O’Hearn, after a long period of ailment, due to chronic bronchitis and asthenia. He was a native of County Clare., Ireland, but came out to this State shortly after his marriage about 50 years ago. For some years he had been incapable of work, and was looked after by Mr and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill, who saw that that the old man wanted nothing that would make his latter days peaceful and bright. The deceased shortly before his death spoke to the writer in kindly terms of gratitude and affection of Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill’s kindness. …

However he did not always live by the letter of the law, for in the Evening News on Mon Mon 15 May 1905 came this:

For omitting to cut beer duty stamps, penalties of £2 each have been imposed upon P. J. O’Neill, Beechworth; Mrs. B. Rafferty, South West Rocks; …

On Sat 05 Feb 1916 it was reported that, during a meeting of the Central North Coast Racing Association:

Alf. O’Neill (bookmaker) was fined £5 for using abusive language to the Stipendiary Steward.

A motion by Mr. P. J. O’Neill to dispense with the services of the Stipendiary Steward did not find a seconder.

Alf O’Neill was, in fact, one of P. J.’s brothers!

Local papers reported on the health of the O’Neill family and its comings and goings. For example, we have:

Sat 14 Sep 1901:

We have also testate that Mr. P. J. O’Neill is suffering from a bad leg, caused by a fall from his bicycle. Mr. O’Neill left for the Manning last week, where he was treated by Dr. Gormley. The latest we have heard from Mr. O’Neill is that he is improving.

Sat 01 Dec 1906:

MR. & MRS. P. J. O’NEILL wish to thank Dr. Doudney and the Hospital Staff for their kind and skilful treatment

to their daughter, Florence, while in the Hospital.

Sat 14 Nov 1908:

… We regret to learn that Mr. O’Neill is suffering from an affection of the throat, and, acting on the advice of Dr. Gormley of Taree, has gone to Sydney to consult Dr. Brady. Mr. O’Neill’s numerous friends throughout the whole of this and the adjoining districts will deeply regret to hear such a serious step was deemed necessary, and they will, with us, deeply sympathise with him and his family, and cherish the hope that he will soon be restored to good health.

Sat 01 Apr 1916:

On Sunday morning Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey, had the misfortune to fall on a bath-tub and sustain a broken rib.

Fri 21 Jul 1916:


The many friends of Mr P. J. O’Neill (of Kempsey) in this district will be interested to learn that he has just successfully undergone a double operation (for hernia and appendicitis), at the Mater Miseracordia Hospital, North Sydney. He is making a good recovery, and we trust (says the Port Macquarie News) that this progress may be sustained, and that our old friend will soon be his active and genial self again. It will be remembered that Mr O’Neill, who was a judge in the horse section at the late Dungog show, became suddenly ill whilst here, and had to leave the show ground.

Sat 17 Nov 1928:

On Saturday Mr. P. J. O’Neill collided with another car in Kempsey a regular head-on affair and there was more than glass flying.

P. J. continued to enjoy an active life and often travelled to visit family and friends. From the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser, Tue 28 Jan 1930:


Mr. P. J. O’Neill, hotelkeeper, Kempsey, now over 70 years of age, was born in the old brick house at Brookfield. This building was put to many uses before it was demolished. At first a hotel, it was afterwards used as a school, which Mr. O’Neill attended. He danced in it as a young man, and when it was converted in to a convent one of his daughters was an inmate. His grandmother was born in Australia, and his mother first saw the light of day in the Williams district. Mr. O’Neill, who has a large family of grown-up sons and daughters, is still going strong.

From The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate, Sat 21 Nov 1931:


A deputation consisting of Messrs J. Newberry, J. McKenzie, P. J. O’Neill, and J. Clarke waited on the Council in reference to a petition requesting gazettal of a road of access on the north bank of the Hastings to Wauchope as a developmental road.

… An all-weather road was needed on the north bank of the Hastings River. Mr. P. J. O’Neill said he could not speak as one directly interested, though he had property on the Upper Hastings. It would be a great convenience for travelling stock owing to traffic on the Oxley Highway. This was, he thought, the only river on the Coast that did not have a road on each bank. A lot of settlers were very isolated, and it was very unfair and a hardship to have to take the cream to a road for long distances on a wheelbarrow. A heavy storm made the river uncrossable. If money was to be obtained, it would be well spent in providing access and opening up country that was suitable for dairying…

Annie passed away on Sunday, 29 May 1932, at their hotel. The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate Sat 4 Jun 1932 and the Raymond Terrace Examiner and Lower Hunter and Port Stephens Advertiser, Thu 16 Jun 1932, carried this obituary:


Macleay River folk, as well as many, many people in surrounding districts, were deep in a shadow of sorrow Monday morning, when they heard that Mrs. Annie Emily O’Neill, wife of Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of the Hotel Kempsey, had passed away on Sunday night. The deceased lady aged 67 years, was a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Huff, of the Williams River. She was married at Tea Gardens in 1886, and for some years the worthy couple resided on the Manning, removing to Beechwood in 1890, coming first to reside in Kempsey in 1910, when Mr. O’Neill took over the West Kempsey Hotel from the late Mr. Harry Priddle. Quiet and unassuming in her nature, the late Mrs. O’Neill was yet possessed of a surpassing dignity and refinement that combined well with her gracious kindliness. A devout Churchwoman, a devoted and most capable mother, she yet found time to capably partner her respected husband in his public and business activities. Never in the foreground, her quiet and efficient management yet pervaded the business with which she was so long connected. Mrs. O’Neill is still remembered by the middle aged generation as a notable holder of the position of Mayoress of Kempsey. The written word cannot fully express the measure of respect and admiration in which she was held by all sections of the community, for her benign influence extended far beyond the confines of her large family of sons and daughters. The daughters are Sister Clare (St. Joseph’s Convent, Merewether), Mrs. Downing (Campsie), Mrs. Frank Moses (Greenhlll), Mrs. R. P. Hayes (Rose Bay), Miss Maud O’Neill (at home), Mrs. T. Ashby (Sydney), Mrs. B. Reilly (Kempsey), Mrs. Newley (Canowindra), and Miss Clare (at home). Two sons and one daughter (Mary) predeceased their mother. The surviving sons are Messrs. Jack O’Neill (Campsie), and Cyril and Dominic O’Neill (Kempsey). Messrs. Jacob Huff (Tea Gardens), Thomas Huff (Sydney) and William Huff (Newcastle) are brothers while Mesdames Feeney (Raymond Terrace), Lynch (Newcastle) and Lunney (Raymond Terrace) are sisters.

The funeral, under conduct of Mr. Jos. T. Walker, took place to West Kempsey Catholic Cemetery on Monday, the Rev. Father Morris, assisted by Rev. Father Fillodeau and Rev. Dr. McEvoy, of Port Macquarie, officiating at the graveside. Despite the short notice, a large number of mourners came from the Hastings and Manning Rivers, and the hearse was covered with wreaths, including many from innumerable public bodies with which Mr. O’Neill has been connected. Deep sympathy is extended by all to the bereaved family. – Macleay Chronicle.

and in the Dungog Chronicle: Durham and Gloucester Advertiser on Fri 03 Jun 1932:

Mrs. Annie Emily O’Neill.

Of a quiet and unassuming disposition, ever ready to bring cheer and help to those in need of her ministrations, there passed to her eternal rest at her residence, the Hotel Kempsey, on Sunday night, Mrs. Annie Emily O’Neill, aged 67 years, wife of Mr. Patrick Joseph O’Neill and a daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Hough, of Williams River. Married in 1886 at Tea Gardens by the late Rev. Father Sheehy, the deceased went with her husband to reside at Taree, where Mr. O’Neill opened up a butchering business. After a year or so in that centre they proceeded to what is known as the Walla Brush, Manning River, where they carried on farming pursuits in the old pioneering days. In 1890, they made their residence at Beechwood, where Mr. O’Neill conducted a butchering and auctioneer’s business. In 1910 they came to reside in Kempsey, taking over Priddle’s Hotel, which they conducted until 1917, when they went to reside privately in the residence now known as Lemington Private Hospital. Here they lived for some five or six years, and then took over the charge of the Hotel Kempsey eight years ago. The deceased lady was a devout adherent of the Catholic faith, and a lover of her home and family, and her passing is deeply deplored toy a large circle of friends on the Macleay, Hastings and Manning Rivers. The daughters are Sister Clare (of St. Joseph’s Convent, Merewether), Mrs. Downing (Campsie), Mrs. Frank Moses (Greenhill), Mrs. R. P. Hayes (Rose Bay), Miss Maud O’Neill (at home), Mrs. T. Ashby. (Sydney), Mrs. B. Reilly (Kempsey), Mrs. Newley (Canowindra) and Miss Clare (at home). Two other daughters and one son predeceased their mother. The surviving sons are Messrs. Jack O’Neill (Campsie), and Cyril and Dominic O’Neill (Kempsey). Messrs. Jacob Hough (Tea Gardens), Thomas Hough (Sydney), and William Hough (Newcastle) are brothers, while Mesdames Feeney (Raymond Terrace), Lynch (Newcastle) and Lunney (Raymond Terrace) are sisters. The late Mrs. O’Neill was a grand-aunt to the late Les Darcy. The funeral, directed by Mr. Jos. T. Walker, took place on Monday afternoon. The remains were taken to the Catholic Church, West Kempsey, from whence the cortege proceeded to the Catholic cemetery, West Kempsey. Deepest sympathy is extended to Mr. P. J. O’Neill and members of the family in their hour of sorrow. – Macleay ‘Argus.’

Sat 18 May 1940:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill, one of the identities, of the Manning, and Macleay River districts, has now retired to Yarras, his property of 2000 acres on the Upper Hastings, which he has owned for 40 years, and where he is fattening cattle. Mr. O’Neill, who was for 8 years host of the Hotel Kempsey, is 83 years of age.

Tue 16 Dec 1941:

Old Manning friends were pleased on Saturday and Sunday last to meet Mr. P. J. O’Neill (brother of Mr. H. T. O’Neill, of Port Macquarie) on a visit to Taree and Cundle. At the latter place he saw his daughter, who is a member of the Cundle Convent teaching staff. Mr. O’Neill states that it is said that the Hastings River is drier than it has been for 100 years. In the upper reaches in places it is not running at all. He lives on his property of 2000 acres at Yarras. Mr. O’Neill returned home on Monday.

P. J. is almost certainly the Pat O’Neill referred to in a poem in honour of the 98th birthday of “Uncle Johnny” Coombes, who lived on the Forbes River in the Upper Hastings. Several of the Coombes family lived and laboured in Yarras. The poem appeared on Sat 27 Jun 1942 in The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate:

Grand Old Man of the Upper Hastings.
‘Uncle Johnny.’
Written for The ‘Port Macquarie News,’ by Fitz o’ Wingham.

Congratulations to that fine old pioneer, Mr. John Coombes (Uncle Johnny), who passed the 98th milestone on 28th May, at Forbes River, Upper Hastings, New South Wales.

Johnny’s friends are all delighted –
He’s a wonder, no mistake;
He’ll reach the hundred – then be knighted –
And there’ll be an ‘Irish Wake.

Yes, there’ll be a monster meeting –
On the Forbes about that time;
Just to hand a merry greeting –
Out to Johnny – built in rhyme.

All the ‘boys’ will meet together –
Old and young – I’ll bet my hat;
And they’ll travel – hell for leather –
Wet their whistles – at Long Flat.

Dick Cutler, chaps, is bound to meet ’em –
With a coo-ee, loud and long;
Pat O’Neill, I think, will treat ’em –
You’ll agree, with something strong …

Sat 03 Apr 1943:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill and daughter are occupying a cottage at Port Macquarie, where the former is recuperating after a recent illness in Kempsey.

Fri 25 Feb 1944:

Muswellbrook ‘Chronicle’: Happy reunions have been the order at Eaton’s Hotel during the past few days. Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, parents of Mr. Harold Richardson, are visitors from Sydney. Mr. Richardson, Snr., is Chief Officer of the N.S.W. Fire Brigades. Also Mr. H. T. O’Neill, father of Mrs. Richardson, arrived from Port Macquarie, and was accompanied by his brother, Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Long Flat, Upper Hastings. Despite his 87 years, Mr. P. J. O’Neill is still at work, and spends three days in the saddle each week on his property, which he devotes to the breeding of beef cattle. Prior to taking up grazing pursuits, he was in the hotel business for 35 years. His brother, Mr. H. T. O’Neill, engages in dairy farming, but he, too, was a hotelkeeper for many years up till 1935. A sister of the two gentlemen referred to above is Mrs. Nora Minch, well known resident of Scone.

Fri 18 May 1945:


Mr. P. J. O’Neill, well-known grazier, from the Macleay River, has been the guest of Mrs. James Walsh, Brookfield, and spent a happy time meeting old friends. Mr. O’Neill was born at Brookfield almost 88 years ago in the ‘old brick cottage’ which his grandfather built. The building later became the Convent. At the age of three the family moved to Bullahdelah, but he was sent back to Brookfield to school, as no such facilities were available in Bullahdelah district. The brick building was the social centre and he attended dances there. The main room was used on Sundays for church purposes, and he attended Mass there. Later, his sister was a Nun there. This is surely a unique record. Hale and hearty and as active as any “young ‘un,'” Mr. O’Neill still rides the paddocks. When he is not riding, he is gardening. He says he never learnt how to rest, except when tired out and fatigued. His brother, Herb, is still going strong and attends the sales at Long Flat and elsewhere. Whilst in Brookfield, the visitor spent a pleasant evening with his old friend, Mr. Gus Carlton.

Fri 26 Jul 1946:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Long Flat, is ill in hospital at Kempsey, and his condition is causing concern. A wide circle of friends will wish him a return to good health.

Fri 31 Aug 1945:

Mr. P. J. O’Neill of the Upper Hastings, and affectionately known throughout the Central North Coast and other districts as ‘P.J.,’ attained his 88th birthday on Sunday last. The veteran still more than supervises the practical side of the work on his property.

PJ O'neill an older PJ and Annie

Then came the inevitable. From the Raymond Terrace Examiner and Lower Hunter and Port Stephens Advertiser, Thu 17 Jul 1947:


The death occurred last week of Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of Long Flat, Wingham. The deceased lived to be a few weeks off 90. He was a native of Brookfield and as a young man was butchering at Stroud, Booral etc. He married Miss Hough, of Tea Gardens and later went north and settled down to cattle raising and dairying at Beechwood. He was popular in his district and the funeral was one of the largest seen in the Kempsey area for many years.

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate carried this obituary on Fri 18 Jul 1947, quoted from the Macleay Argus:


Probably never was there on the Macleay a more representative assemblage or greater tribute at a funeral than that of Wednesday week, when the remains of the late Mr. Patrick Joseph O’Neill were laid to rest in the West Kempsey Cemetery (says the ‘Argus’).

A wonderful old man, who had lived a most fulsome, public spirited and charitable life was the tribute to him from the people of all classes and creeds on the Macleay.

Aged 89 years – another few weeks would have seen his 90th birthday – no man was more widely known nor more highly esteemed on the Central North Coast between the Hunter and the Macleay Rivers.

A native of Brookfield, on the Williams River near Dungog, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Patrick O’Neill, the late Mr. P. J. O’Neill had successfully engaged in butchering business at Booral, near Stroud, Taree, and Beechwood, on the Hastings. The major portion of his lifetime he had spent in Kempsey. All of this meant that over his nearly 90 years he had lived with, and had had a very great part to play in the development of the Central North Coast districts.

The Carltons, the Doolans and the Walsh’s of Brookfield, have a wonderful appreciation of their convent school there, and they hold many kindly and proud remembrances of the O’Neill family’s part in it.

And so this popularity followed Mr. O’Neill successfully into the districts where be later made his way.

Whilst in business at Booral Mr. O’Neill married Miss Annie Mary Hough, of Tea Gardens, and together they lived gracious lives that were brimming with benevolence and kindly, help to all fortunate to be numbered amongst their neighbours.

They moved later into a butchering business at Taree, and after a time on to Beechwood, on the Hastings, where later, in addition to the butchery, Mr. O’Neill took over the Beechwood Hotel. It was there the pastoral thought impelled him, and he acquired two of the finest grazing properties on the Hastings – ‘Beechwood’ and ‘Yarras,’ both of which he retained throughout and raised on them quality cattle.

Mr. and Mrs. O’Neill and their young family came on to Kempsey in 1910, acquiring the freehold of the West Kempsey Hotel, and later they were for many years host and hostess of the Hotel Kempsey.

One of the outstanding public men of the Macleay, perhaps the best of the late Mr. O’Neill’s efforts was his part in stimulating activity in the movement to urge the building of the North Coast railway. He was for some years an alderman and Mayor of Kempsey Municipality. It was his privilege when Mayor to have had the honour of entertaining one of New South Wales’ most popular State Governors, Sir Walter Davidson, who was on a goodwill visit. Mr. O’Neill was for a time also a councillor of Macleay Shire, and a member of the District Land Board. ‘P.J.’ revelled in the love of the bush – the love for his cattle, good horses, and faithful dogs. It is said of him that, whist butchering at Taree, he would, with his dog as companion, ride to Maitland to buy cattle and sheep. He would choose himself to drive home either draft, cattle or sheep, and leave his dog to follow him on with the other draft. As a horseman, he had won ribbons at shows all along the coast as gentleman rider, but was prouder to think that no outlaw or brumby could throw him. Such a sportsman could not otherwise than have interest in horse racing, and it fell naturally to him to become a member of the committee and president of the Kempsey Jockey Club. He raced many good horses in his own colours.

The late Mr. O’Neill moved with everything that was for the progress of Kempsey, and so was one of the founders of the original Chamber of Commerce. When the Bowling Club was mooted in 1920 he joined up at once, and was most liberal in his support of the movement. Beyond these public activities there was a great charitableness in his disposition that accounted for innumerable kindly acts that were known best to himself. He lived in the days when a straight man expected others to be straight with him – when a man’s word was his bond, and securities for temporary aid were seldom sought, at least by him. In the same light his generosity to his church and to all public movements was unbounded.

The O’Neill family tree was wide spread. Surviving sons of deceased are Messrs. Jack O’Neill, of Sydney, and Dominick O’Neill, of Kempsey; and surviving daughters are Mother Mary **Clare, of Lochlnvar, Mrs. R. J. Downing, of Dubbo, Mrs. Frank Moses, Long Flat, Mrs. C. Hayes, Chatswood, Miss Maude O’Neill, Long Flat, Mrs. E. Ashby, Grafton, Mrs. J. B. Reilly, Canberra, Mrs. R. S. Newly, Tamworth, and Mrs. K. Matthews, Sydney. One son, Cyril, and one daughter, Mary, predeceased him. His wife predeceased him in 1932. Also surviving him are three brothers and two sisters, viz., Messrs Herbert O’Neill, Port Macquarie, and Frank O’Neill and Alf O’Neill, Sydney, Mrs. M. O’Shannessy, Sydney, and Mrs. Minch, Scone. There are also of his family thirty-three grand children.

At All St Saints’ Catholic Church on Tuesday morning a Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of deceased was celebrated by Rev. Father Mc Evoy. The funeral cortege left the church at noon, following a service performed by Rev. Father McEvoy, assisted by Rev. Father Morris. For this service the church was crowded, and a notable tribute was in the Convent Sisters bringing all the children of their school to the service.

The cortege was one of the biggest ever seen in Kempsey, friends of the family attending from all parts of the Macleay and Hastings River districts.

The late Mr. O’Neill was well known in Port Macquarie, where years ago he always took an outstanding interest in the agricultural society and its annual show.

P. J.’s will was somewhat complex. The following news item, from The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate on Fri 01 Jul 1949, follows a court case over summons:

(Before Mr. Justice Sugerman)
P. J. O’Neill, deceased and T.F.M. Act

His Honour delivered reserved judgment in this summons which involves a novel question arising from an unusual set of facts.

By his will, testator appointed two sets of executors in respect of different portions of his estate, Katherine O’Neill to be the executrix and trustee of the ‘remainder’ of his estate.

By one grant of September 30, 1947, probate of the testator’s will was granted to K. O’Neill, limited to the estate situated at Yarras, and to B. S. Newley and N. F. Moses limited to the estate of the deceased other than that situated at Yarras.

On September 29, 1948, Ceclia Hayes, a daughter of the testator, issued an originating summons under the Testator’s Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants Act, 1916-1938, claiming that a provision for her maintenance be made ‘out of the estate of the testator.’ It was served upon B. S. Newley and N. F. Moses but not upon Katherine O’Neill.

The present application was for amendment of the originating summons to include Katherine O’Neill as a defendant.

Counsel for Katherine O’Neill submitted that the rule that an amendment by the way of introducing a new cause of action or a new party should not be allowed where the effect would be to defeat the operation of a Statute of Limitations.

It was also submitted that in effect there were two estates and that the applicant had elected to proceed against one set of executors and to confine her claims to one estate.

His Honour reviewed the law and pointed out that for the purposes of the Act there was only one estate as shown by the terms of Sections 3 (1), 4 (1), 6, 10 and 11. There could be but one kind of application, that must be an application for payment out of the whole of the estate of the testator, leaving it to the Court to determine whether the apportionment of the burden amongst all of the persons beneficially interested under the will, which the Act prescribed as the prima facie rule, should be disturbed.

Leave to amend as sought was granted. Costs of all parties and of the intervener to be costs in the respective applications under the Act…

Fri 14 Apr 1950:

Land Board Court
The O’Neill Case

On the 16th and 17th of February, at Port Macquarie, the Land Board Court held an investigation subsequent upon a reference by the Minister for Lands, in the matter of an application by Katharine O’Neill for a certificate that she was entitled to be a transferee of Original Conditional Purchases 12/11 and 28/5, and Additional Conditional Purchases 16/7 and 35/3, Land District Port Macquarie. The Board had to enquire and report whether the area already held by the applicant, when added to the restricted title land devised to her, would substantially exceed a home maintenance area and, if so, for report as to the percentage of such excess and whether this excess was regarded as substantial.

After hearing lengthy evidence, the board was of the opinion that Mrs. O’Neill was entitled to the most favourable consideration in view of decision 30 LCC 350, and took the liberal view and were of the opinion that a home maintenance area was not substantially exceeded.

The board recommended the issue of the required certificate.

Finally, The Northern Champion on Sat 07 Oct 1950:


In Sydney last week, Mr Justice Sugarman heard a claim against the will of the late P. J. O’Neill, one of the best known graziers on the North Coast, who passed away about three years ago.

In the original plaint, nominated as petitioners were Mrs K. Matthews (Sydney), Mrs R. Hayes (Sydney), Mrs F. Moses (Long Flat), Mrs R. G. Downing (Dubbo), Mrs T. Ashby (Grafton), daughters of the late Mr O’Neill. At the hearing Mesdames Moses. Downing and Ashby did not appear.

Named as defendants were Mrs Kathleen O’Neill (Long Flat) and Domenic O’Neill (Kempsey), daughter and son of the late Mr O’Neill. The former had been left, under the terms of the will, the 1400 acre Yarras property and Mr O’Neill the 242 acre property at Beechwood – both were to be free of probate charges according to the will.

The will was challenged on the grounds that the petitioners had been left unprovided, but, in a reserve decision, His Honour found for Mrs Kathleen O’Neill and Mr Domenic O’Neill. Each party will bear their own costs of the court hearing, but the petitioners are to pay probate and other estate costs as defined in the will.

P.J. & Annie’s family:

P. J. and Annie had 14 children, most in Beechwood (one in Taree):

01. Catherine Elizabeth (b. 18 Sep 1886, d. 24 May 1970)

02. Annie Emily (b. 18 Oct 1887, d. 02 Aug 1974)

03. Mary Ignatius (b.1889, d. 29 Aug 1915 at Telegraph Point, NSW)

04. Ita Florence (b. 1891, d. 30 Jun 1975)

05. Patrick (b. 1893, d. 03 Jan 1894)

06. John (b. 1894, d. 1983)

07. Leonora Maud (b. 13 Apr 1896, d. 09 Sep 1897)

08. Cecelia (b. 1897, d. 03 Dec 1986)

09. Eileen (b. 02 Nov 1888, d. 02 Nov 1988 at Cundletown, New South Wales, Australia)

10. Cyril Francis (b. 26 Jan 1899, d. 21 Mar 1947)

11. Joseph Dominic (b. 04 Aug 1902, d. 20 Aug 1975)

12. Rita Evelyn (b. 1905, d. ?)

13. Marie Ursula (b. 1905, d. 19 Mar 1976)

14. Clare (b. 1907, d. 20 Oct 2002)

Generation 2

01. Catherine Elizabeth O’Neill became a nun in the Order of St Joseph of Lochinvar, her religious name being Sister Claire. She rose to be Mother Claire of Lochinvar.

03. Mary Ignatius O’Neill died of complications arising from appendicitis, aged just 26. The news was carried by the Dungog Chronicle on Tue 07 Sep 1915, and by The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate on Sat 04 Sep 1915:

Telegraph Point.

We were shocked to hear of the death of Miss Mary O’Neill, daughter of Mr. P. J. O’Neill, of West Kempsey, and formerly of Beechwood. It appears that Miss O’Neill was taken suddenly ill while she was at Mrs. Egan’s house, offering consolation to the Egan family for the loss of Rowley Egan at the front. The doctor was sent for, and operated for appendicitis; then, a specialist from Sydney performed a second operation. The girl, however, succumbed on Saturday, and was buried the following day.

05. Patrick O’Neill died in Beechworth as an infant.

07. Leonora Maud O’Neill did not marry and to date we have not uncovered much of her story. In the 1954 electoral rolls she is listed as living in the Commercial Hotel, Krambach, NSW. In 1972 she is listed in Inverell, NSW. She passed away at Long Flat, aged 91.

08. Cecelia Maud O’Neill married Richard Patrick Hayes (b.  01 Mar 1885 in Blackheath, England, d. 15 Dec 1944) at Kempsey on 10 Nov 1924: from The Catholic Press on Thu 20 Nov 1924:


At All Saints’ Church, Kempsey, on the 10th inst., a pretty wedding was celebrated, between Richard, second son of the late Mr. C. H. Hayes, of Armidale, and Celia, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey. Rev. Father Morris, Adm., solemnised the marriage. Miss Eileen O’Neill attended her sister as bridesmaid, and Mr. Gerald Hayes (brother of the bridegroom) was best man. Mr. and Mrs. Hayes intended honeymooning in Tasmania and elsewhere before settling down in Armidale.

Richard had enlisted into the A.I.F. on 04 Apr 1916; his service record can be read here. He was assigned to the 1st Field Ambulance in France and suffered gas burns in Nov 1017. He recovered,  rejoined his unit and was discharged in Nov 1919. He re-enlisted during WWII (service number N72108), however his record is not yet available on-line.

In the 1934 electoral rolls, the family is listed at 357 Beamish St, Campsie. There was no occupation listed, but presumably Richard was working with his brother-in-law John O’Neill in the hotel there. By 1937 they had moved to 88 Walker St, North Sydney, at which time his occupation was shown as barman.

Richard death was announced in The Sydney Morning Herald on Sat 16 Dec 1944:

HAYES.-December 15, 1944, at Sacred Heart Hospice, Richard Hayes, dearly beloved husband of Cecelia, and dearly beloved brother of Gerrard and Harry. R.I.P.

Richard and Cecelia had one daughter, Mary Josephine, born in 1926. Following Richard’s death Cecelia and her daughter moved to Bondi where they lived at 15 Francis St (as per electoral rolls 1958 to 1972). Mary is listed as a stenographer. In the last two rolls, 1977 and 1980, Cecelia’s address is given as 10 Aubrey St, Northbridge.

09. Eileen O’Neill married Thomas J Ashby during Easter of 1928; The Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer had announced her engagement on Fri 08 Apr 1927:

Miss Eileen O’Neill, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey, has announced her engagement to Mr. Tom Ashby, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Ashby, of Melbourne.

In the 1930 and 1931 electoral rolls the couple are listed at 20 Sully St, Randwick East, Thomas being a salesman. In P.J.’s 1947 obituary above, Eileen is said to be then living in Grafton. In the 1958 electoral rolls Eileen and her two daughters (Judith Anne, a librarian, and Mel Mary, a clerk) are listed at 142 Warners Ave, Bondi Beach; Eileen is then a supervisor. She is still there with Judith Anne in 1963.

Eileen passed away on 02 Nov 1988; The Sydney Morning Herald on 04 Nov 1988:

Eileen Ashby death notice

12. Rita Evelyn O’Neill married James Bede Reilly (b. 20 May 1901 at Smithtown, NSW, d. 19 Nov 1971 in Canberra) on 11 May 1929; this was a double involving Rita and her younger sister (Marie) Ursula, described in The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales on Wed 15 May 1929:


Even the rain could not damp the interest displayed at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, on Saturday, when the twin sisters, Misses Rita and Ursula O’Neill, were married. They are the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. P. J. O’Neill, of Kempsey, and are so much alike that it would be difficult for any except their closest friends to recognise one from the other. Miss Rita O’Neill was married to Mr. James Bede Reilly, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. James Reilly, of Smithtown, Macleay River. Miss Angela Reilly acted as her bridesmaid. Miss Ursula O’Neill became the wife of Mr Bruce Sinclair Newley, only son of the late Mr. B. Newley and Mrs. Newley, of Bingola. Rev. Father J Rafferty, of Arncliffe. performed the double ceremony. The brides were dressed alike, wore frocks of pink ninon trimmed with diamante, the skirts of which were made with godets all the way round, giving a handkerchief effect. Their veils were mounted on pink cut tulle, and were held in place with orange blossom. Each carried a bouquet of pink carnations and lilies of the valley. The colour scheme was completed by their satin slippers and stockings.

Miss Claire O’Neill attended her sister Ursula as bridesmaid. The bridesmaids wore ninon and  embossed georgette with silver and carried posies which fitted their color scheme. The reception was held at the Ambassadors.

James was a dental surgeon, having graduated in 1923 from The University of Sydney with Honours (class II) – The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 18 May 1923. The couple lived initially in Kempsey (electoral rolls, 1930 and 1936) before moving to Canberra (electoral rolls from 1943). In the electoral rolls Rita spelt her middle name as Eveline.

James’ death notice appeared in The Canberra Times on Sat 20 Nov 1971:


REILLY, James Bede. – 19 November 1971 at Canberra. Beloved husband of Rita and loved father of John (Brother Hugh Thomas, Marist Brothers, Ashgrove, Qeensland), Margaret (Mrs Ed Malone, Sydney), Rita (Sister Mary Rita, St Bede’s, Red Hill, Canberra), Mary (Mrs Kevin Ford, Canberra) and Therese and father-in-law of Ed and Kevin.

13. Marie Ursula O’Neill, known as Ursula, married Bruce Sinclair Newley, as described in in The Manning River Times and Advocate for the Northern Coast Districts of New South Wales article reported in Rita’s section above; the on-line database of NSW marriages incorrectly interprets Bruce’s surname as Newby (record 5155).

Bruce enlisted during WWII (Service Number N427459, not yet available on-line). His birth was stated as 16 Jun 1901 at Amosfield, NSW, (near Tenterfield), his parents being Edwin Newley & Eva Geddes White.

The 1936 electoral rolls list Bruce at a bank manager at Brewarrina, NSW. It appears he had previously been on the relieving staff of the Commercial Bank in Kempsey, as  Macleay Argus mentioned this in the engagement notice on Tue 11 Dec 1928. Bruce was also one of the two executors of his father-in-law P.J’s will.

The rolls between 1937 and 1943 have Bruce as the manager of the Commercial Bank in Coonamble, NSW. This position must have has attached accommodation, as Ursula’s role was listed  as “home duties”, Commercial Bank. In 1949 Bruce’s surname is incorrectly spelt Newly, the couple living 141c Brisbane St, Tamworth, NSW; Bruce is then described as a bank officer. By 1958 the family the family had moved to 11 Basil Rd, Bexley in Sydney, and were still there to 1963 at least.

Bruce died on 20 Aug 1963 and is buried in the Woronora Cemetery at Sutherland. Ursula moved to Wollstonecraft, probate being granted on Fri 25 Mar 1977 (Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales):

IN the Supreme Court of New South Wales. – Probate Jurisdiction. – In the estate of URSULA MARIE NEWLEY. late of 5/92 Shirley Road, Wollstonecraft, in the State of New South Wales, widow, deceased. – Probate granted by the Supreme Court of New South Wales on the 9th December, 1976. –  Pursuant to the Wills, Probate and Administration Act, 1898 – 1940, Testator’s Family Maintenance and Guardianship of Infants Act, 1916-1954, and Trustee Act, 1925-1942, John Bruce Newley. the executor of the will of the said Ursula Marie Newley, who died on the 19th March, 1976, hereby gives notice …

The couple had three sons.

14. Clare O’Neill is listed as working in the family-owned Kempsey Hotel in the 1930 and 1934 electoral rolls. She met Kenneth Kippax Matthews, who in the 1935 rolls is listed as a buyer, living in East Kempsety. The couple married at Burrowa in 1935. In the 1936 and 1937 rolls they appear in Barker St, Casino; Kenneth is then listed as a manager. He appears again as a buyer in the 1943 rolls living in Goulburn. They then moved to Sydney and in 1949 were listed in Cammeray.

Clare and Kenneth divorced sometime between 1949 and 1957. We have not yet found this record, but subsequent electoral rolls show Kenneth as a publican of a string of hotels. He died in 1993.

Clare O’Neill married Kenneth Harold Watt (b. 1903 in Ashfield, d. 28 Apr 1997 in Port Macquarie) in 1957 in Sydney. Kenneth is listed as a storekeeper at Port Macquarie in the 1949 electoral rolls. However in the 1958 to 1963 rolls they are listed in Long Flat, at which point Kenneth is a baker. (He had showed up earlier in Long Flat as a Baker when married to his first wife.) Clare passed away on 20 Oct 2002 at Long Flat, aged 95.

Note that we do not publish names of people still living without their permission, unless they appear in a public or official document. If anyone in this family can assist with additional information, photos and stories, we be pleased to include them: email mick@oneillfamily.id.au.


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