Harry O'Neill, staunch member and supporter of Write Out Loud, dies aged 89

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The online community at Write Out Loud was saddened on Sunday to hear of the death of one of its staunchest and enthusiastic supporters, Harry O’Neill.

Harry’s family posted on Write Out Loud: “It is with sadness that our family announce that our dad Harry died peacefully on 1 February 2018 aged 89 … Our dad really enjoyed being a part of the Write Out Loud community and it became a big focus for him in the last few years. He was so enthusiastic about the possibilities the online poetry community offered. He looked forward to reading the work of others and he really valued the comments his poems received from his fellow poets.”

Harry’s funeral was at 9.30am on Monday 12 February at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Walton Vale, Liverpool. The family said: “Fellow poets welcome!” His family also added a poem titled ‘RIP Harry’:


He did go gently into that goodnight,

Gladly embracing the golden light.

The one-time poet from the street.

Sauntered off to eternal sleep

Dashing off a few lines

About the times,

when his head was in a swirl

With his love for the poetic word.


Fellow poets were quick to pay their own poetic tributes to Harry on Write Out Loud, including Tom Doolan, Wolfgar, Rose Casserley, and Tony Hill. And Harry supplied a summary of his creative life on his own profile page:

“In late sixties and early seventies Liverpool had fun reading at O`Conners, Chauffers, The Why Not, etc … won fleeting local fame in the Echo reading with [Roger] McGough. Also once read – on an Adrian Henri bill – to a completely empty Parr Hall in Warrington (Shame on you Warrington).

“Later read to a student-occupied Manchester University with Jim Blackburn`s Lancashire Poets, Then -with Jim – read at the Gazebo in Duke street, where we were filmed for television (but it was never screened) When Jim disappeared I ran the Gazebo alone, until life as a trade union official and national negotiator mucked up my free time.

“Retired (educationally raw) in my late fifties, saw the opportunities, did the O and A levels, and lifted a couple of literary degrees from a profoundly un-impressed Liverpool University, during which time I wrote and put on a one-act play and got the theatre bug. Later did a course at the Joe Makin [drama centre] at the John Moores university and had a full length play looked at and rejected – helpfully - by the Everyman. No one seemed anxious to look at my third play: a social satire set in an abortion clinic (I can`t for the life of me imagine why)

“Anyway, this ‘gasp from the past’ is delighted to find the poetry scene still in good health and had fun doing the rounds again.  All this new, democratic, internet stuff is like launching little candle boats of poetic endeavour out on to the Ganges of universal criticism – I love it.“  

Harry contributed to many discussions threads on Write Out Loud wioth humour and wisdom, and often initiated them. This was one of the last poems that he posted on Write Out Loud, in September 2017:  



by Harry O'Neill

The world sits silent round the Eastern stair,
The sky grows lovely - lucid now - and calm, 
While soft fed wisps of heav`n-released air
Caress my lifted brow like soothing balm.

The tardy pennants of the night`s dark cloud
Stream from the sinking rearward of the mass,
Laggard frags of midnight`s mourning shroud
Withdrawing slowly down the Western pass.

Now, as our planet`s gently curving sphere
Bows to the grace of resurrecting day,
The sheer blessedness of being here
Bids all my being bend its knee and pray.




◄ Write Out Loud at Bolton Socialist Club tonight

'Sea-faring' by Zach Dafoe is Write Out Loud's Poem of the Week ►


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Andy N

Sun 25th Feb 2018 11:05

i met him once in Liverpool i am sure. A nice guy and a very, very clever writer. 89 is a excellent age and more the fact he was still writing until close to the end. Exactly the way i would like to be also

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Tommy Carroll

Thu 15th Feb 2018 13:08

Harry belated condolences to you and your folks.
If I had know of your passing I would have taken a short bus ride to your funeral.
Take care.

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M.C. Newberry

Wed 14th Feb 2018 17:20

The final verse of his September 2017 WOL poem "Aubade"
is a perfect reminder to us to value the simple joy of life every day we own it.

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John Coopey

Mon 12th Feb 2018 22:53

I used to joke with him about his love poems that they were cheaper than a bunch of flowers and much more effective.

Old Harry’s off to Paradise,
His lines have reached their end;
I only met him once but found
A gentle man and friend.

No longer will he sing of love,
As those he leaves will cry;
The rascal woos the angels now
With mischief in his eye.

Yes, Harry’s now in Paradise;
It’s sad, I’ll not pretend;
He added colour to my world;
I’ll miss your stuff, Old Friend.

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John Marks

Mon 12th Feb 2018 14:51

I was very sorry indeed to read of Harry's death. Sincere condolences to his family and to all those who loved him,
"never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." (JD)

<Deleted User> (10985)

Mon 12th Feb 2018 13:52

So very sad to hear this news. Harry was really supportive and positive when I first joined WOL. Sincere and deepest condolences to his family and friends.


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Laura Taylor

Mon 12th Feb 2018 10:36

Ohhh, that’s really sad news. Harry was such a lovely gentle man, who wrote some of the sweetest (and at times cheekiest!) love poems. We would disagree on occasion, mainly about union activities tbh, but it was always a very polite and respectful exchange on both sides. I had a lot of respect for him, and he always spoke to me with equal respect and dignity. I will miss his tempering presence on here, and his enquiring mind. Rest in peace, Harry, it was a real pleasure knowing you.

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Greg Freeman

Mon 12th Feb 2018 09:13

Harry was passionately interested in poetry. You could tell that by the number of poems he commented on, and the discussions - often about technique - that he took part in with such relish. His contribution to this site can't really be measured. But with his humour, knowledge, wisdom and generosity, he undoubtedly made it a better place. He is a great loss to us, his online friends, as well as to his family and to all those who knew him. But heartwarming to know that we gave something back to Harry, too.

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ken eaton-dykes

Mon 12th Feb 2018 09:12

Harry and myself engaged in lots of amusing cross banter by way of comments.

I never met Harry But the picture that I have in my mind is of an exceptionally talented, wickedly witty, kind hearted, gentle man, His passing has left an impossible to fill space in WOL's family of poets.

Harry and I had different opinions as to where we all go after death. And just for Harry I hope his was the right one.


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Ian Whiteley

Sun 11th Feb 2018 20:07

This is terribly sad news - Harry was a very kind and supportive member of the WOL community. He offered encouragement to me on many occasions and always had a kind word to say about everyone. He saw the good in all forms of poetry and commented knowledgeably and courteously to other poets posts.
So sorry to hear of his passing - my condolences to all his family and friends for their - and our - sad loss.
RIP mate.

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Julian (Admin)

Sun 11th Feb 2018 18:02

One of my precious memories of Harry, and one that I think demonstrates how interested he was in matters of poetry and what a diplomat he was, is the discussion that Greg started precisely four years ago today, about rhyme; ending in March of the following year.

What Greg floated, Harry leapt into and rowed, with Steve Waling and Chris Co diving in as only they could. Chris Co had a habit of throwing the kitchen sink at his replies, bombarding the discussion with long, long, long responses that mostly either turned people off or got them frothing. Not Harry, he just came back at the initial question, determined to get to the bottom of the question, and asking his own.

This reply of Harry's followed several hugely verbose ones from Chris Co, the one ‘reply’ before this being 2,800 words long and containing full length poems from Motion, Larkin, Roetke, Hughes, Yeats, MacNeice, D. H. Lawrence, Coleridge and Stevie Smith as evidence for his (Chris Co’s) argument. Here’s Harry’s diplomatic reply:

I`m almost sorry I started this :)

( No I`m not :) )

It`s marvelous to see so many types
of poetry up there, but where are the
accompanying comments explaining why
they are considered good poetry...not
merely comments of the `I like this`

(I`m goin` down for my tea)

What a gent!


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John Coopey

Sun 11th Feb 2018 17:49

No! Not Harry?
Those angels had better watch out now Harry’s charming them.
Miss you, old friend.

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Julian (Admin)

Sun 11th Feb 2018 17:27

A lovely obit for a lovely chap. I finally had the privilege of meeting him, at Laura Taylor's Flapjack Press launch session in Liverpool. A thoroughly nice chap and a constantly interested, always learning, generously sharing poetry lover, who will be missed by all of us at Write Out Loud.

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