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Farewell Bill O'Neil

Tuesday, 5th April, 2011

FAREWELLED: A guard of honour leads the cortege for Bill O’Neil to the cemetery. FAREWELLED: A guard of honour leads the cortege for Bill O’Neil to the cemetery.

By Andrew Robertson

Civic and unions leaders joined family, friends and colleagues yesterday morning to farewell former BIC president Bill O'Neil.

More than 100 mourners filed into the Cathedral for the 11.30am funeral service for Mr O'Neil who passed away in Adelaide on March 27, aged 81.

As a recording of "Wind Beneath My Wings" played out, Mr O'Neil's family entered the Cathedral where Father Sunny Kannankulam described the miner turned union leader as a man who had "dedicated his life to his community".

While he did not know the man, Father Sunny said that after speaking to people who did it was obvious Mr O'Neil was "a good listener" and someone who was "giving of his time".

And, if approached with a problem, he would always find the solution.

In his eulogy, Kevin Sinclair summarised his friend's working life which began in 1947 with a geological group exploring for the Zinc Corporation, and his rise to become the union movement's main negotiator.

Mr O'Neil would spend 27 years working in the mines, first with the Zinc Corporation and later NBHC as an underground loco-driver, before becoming Secretary of the FED & FA (Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association).

The son of union leader "Shorty" O'Neil, he spent 20 years as Secretary of that union before following in his famous father's footsteps and becoming BIC president in 1985.

Yesterday's service also heard Mr O'Neil was a "wonderful uncle".

Lynette Silk, the daughter of Mr O'Neil's sister, Shirley, said he had helped raise her and was not only her uncle but also her teacher, best friend and confidant.

"He was always there for me, guiding me and always ready to listen and offer advice, instilling in me that we must always be kind and gentle and truthful to the other people."

Ms Silk thanked Mr O'Neil's partner, Dallas, for "being part of his life and ours", before telling mourners: "To each and every one of you, I know that you have played a special part in making uncle Bill's life wonderful, for which we say thank you."

As local choir group "Community Voices" performed the socialist song "The Red Flag", Mr O'Neil's coffin was then wheeled out of the Cathedral to a waiting hearse.

Under a cloudless sky, a guard of honour for William Sidney O'Neil was formed in Sulphide Street by union leaders who led the cortege to the cemetery.

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