The azure sky over Ballincollig, Co Cork, lost some of its brightness on the afternoon of Thursday 13 May 2021. Cathie O’Neill, a Scottish soul, was departing for heaven to join her beloved husband, Peter, who predeceased her by just over a year.
Master-seamstress from Glasgow, Cathie (neé McCaulay), met Co Tipperary-native Peter O’Neill in America where he was serving with the US Army. Pete’s contract expired just as his unit was due to travel to Vietnam. He lost a number of his army colleagues as a result of that conflict.
Following a short engagement, Cathie and Pete married and settled in Ballincollig, where Pete took a position with the Cork Airport Police and Fire Service.
Four wonderful children, Karen, Tommy, Debbie and Peter Jr, were born to them, each experiencing a most loving home and eventually, themselves, marrying. Between them they provided 13 adorable grandchildren for Cathie and Pete, most of whom were present for their grandparents’ Golden Jubilee celebration a few years ago. Owing to family circumstances, the O’Neills became adept at sign language.
Lasting friendships were formed with local families, often through house parties where music, chat, home-made crafts and delightful hospitality were the order of the day.
Being Scottish, the main social occasion at her home was Hogmanay on New Year’s Eve. Traditions from Cathie’s homeland – such as first-footing – were introduced to the local population. Pete was from a very musical family and loved to “churn out” a few tunes on his accordion.
Cathie’s social and artistic skills led to her joining the local Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA). Here she exhibited another skill, that of organisation, and became president of this branch for a number of terms, later becoming arts and crafts adviser for the wider Munster membership and a respected figure in the national ICA scene. Cathie even managed to cajole a few men into temporary membership for the purpose of moving stage props for various theatrical productions!
In her more senior years, she even took up studies at University College, Cork, in order to give a contribution back to the welfare of her adopted parish of Ballincollig. Many will witness to her warm, practical and encouraging manner.
Cathie and Pete loved seeing the world and travelled extensively. Some two years ago, travelling to Florida to join a cruise, Pete suffered a stroke on the flight but, thanks to the cabin crew and the fortunate presence of medical people on board, he survived the crisis but had to spend many weeks in a Florida hospital, with Cathie staying in a local hotel until it was possible to become repatriated to Cork. Sadly, Pete would survive only another year.
Cathie coped courageously with cancer for many decades, yet achieved such a wonderful value from life through her love of that life, her family and her friends. After her beloved Pete died, her health rapidly departed her and she died in the gentle care of the staff of the Mercy University Hospital in Cork City, surrounded by her loving family.
Cathie and Pete are resting in St Oliver's Cemetery near Ballincollig, where Irish rock-star, Rory Gallagher is interred. As Cathie joins Pete in heaven, perhaps Saint Andrew will notice the blue on his standard pulsing with a new brightness.
Apart from her children and their families, Cathie is survived by her sister, Maureen, who travelled from Glasgow for the funeral.
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