William Andrew O'NEILL (aka Bill) [1903-1984] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

William Andrew O'NEILL (aka Bill) [1903-1984]

Names
Given: 
William Andrew
Family: 
O'Neill
Alias / nickname: 
Bill
Sex: 
Male
Status: 
Deceased
Birth
Date: 
1903-02-05
Birthplace (town, state): 
Limerick
Birthplace (country): 
Death
Date: 
c.1984-12-31 (Month, Day are approximate)

Comments

There's a brief description of Bill O'Neill in Hongkong: The Island Between by Christopher Rand (1952):

Reuters is a news agency, but in Hongkong it is also an unofficial club, a gathering place, for correspondents. Its facilities are gladly made free to all. The man ultimately behind this Christmas mood is a broad, gray-haired Irish-man named Bill O’Neill, who has been in the Far East two or three decades, who once walked fifty miles in a day near the Lower Yangtze, and who is worshipped by everyone in Hongkong for, among other things, his behavior when interned by the Japanese at Stanley Camp. I knew I wouldn’t find him at the office because he was in Singapore, running Reuter’s Far East work from there, but I expected to find his spirit; everyone in that office is kindly. (p.16)

My grandfather knew Bill O’Neill well and Harry Ching, the Australian-Chinese SCMP editor.

 

William Andrew O’Neill – Journalist, Reuters. Ltd – Room 425, Gloucester Building (Source: 1934 Juror’s List). He was born in Limerick, Ireland in 5th February 1903. Died April 1984 in London.

He was friends with Henry (‘Harry’ to his friends) Ching – editor of the South China Morning Post who had his office at Wyndham Street, Hong Kong – he kept a diary during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong

(Source: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/531286c0e4b04bcb37e6c5c5/t/54ac7d97e4b0c309d030bdbe/1420590487064/OP29+Eighteen+Days.pdf

Bill O’Neill was interned in Stanley – at his own volition!!!. When American journalist Gwen Dew left on 30th June 1942 by ship to be repatriated, she noted fellow journalist, Bill O’Neill was in the camp hospital at the time (Source: ‘Reporting War: How Foreign Correspondents Risked Capture, Torture and Death to Cover World War II’ by Ray Moseley 2017 p118) 

 

Bill was sent to Shanghai with 30 others by ship on Thursday 24th December 1942 (Source: “We Shall Suffer There: Hong Kong’s Defenders Imprisoned, 1942-45” by Tony Banham p74). Bill O’Niell was also covered in Barbara Anslow’s diary. She notes: "Thursday December 24. Redwood: “Some 30 odd people left for Shanghai today – including Bill O’Neill of Reuters.” 

 

He was a member of the Foreign Correspondents Club (then based in Broadway Mansions in Shanghai up to 1949) who later helped, together with an estate agent and another journalist, Clyde A. Farnsworth, find the club’s new address in Hong Kong at 41a Conduit Road in 1949 (Source: ‘Tangled Bylines: A Father and Son Cover the Twentieth Century’ by Clyde H. Farnsworth (2017), p127)

 

"Bill O’Neill, the Reuter Manager for South East Asia (in mid 1950s), an Irishman, was a splendid boss.  He was famous for the circumstances of his internment by the Japanese in the war. When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong they interned the British, but not the Irish, who were neutral. Bill O’Neill became lonely and asked the Japanese to intern him with his British friends. They complied." (Source: p26 Castro and Stockmaster by Michael Nelson) 

[…] Reuters is a news agency, but in Hongkong it is also an unofficial club, a gathering place, for correspondents. Its facilities are gladly made free for all. The man ultimately behind this Christmas mood is a broad, gray-haired Irishman named Bill O'Neill, who has been in the Far East two or three decades, who once walked fifty miles in a day near the Lower Yangtze, and who is worshipped by everyone in Hong Kong fro among other things, his behavior when interned by the Japanese at Stanley Camp. (Excerpt from Unknown writer about HK from the 1950s)

 

When I last corresponded with Peter A. Gilchrist (1925-2018) who was also interned in Stanley, he had this to say of Bill O’Neill (spelling mistakes and typo as is!): 

I met Bill O Neill in Stanley.

We hit it off,even with the age difference,I was active in camp ,as a organizer of softball and soccer so possibly thats why Bill and I got to know each other.

I did not see Bill again after arriving in Shanghai but I will always remember Bills advice to me one windy day on deck.

He told me to make a new life in canada after the war as he felt the future for me was in the New World not in the Far East,how right he was!!!

I have thought a lot of times of Bill and how everything went for him.