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