Dan O'Neill obituary

Other lives: Journalist in South Wales for 40 years who also wrote for the Guardian in the 1960s

My father, Dan O’Neill, who has died aged 90, was a journalist for the South Wales Echo for 40 years. He also wrote for the Guardian in the mid-1960s, including reports of Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour.

Born in Cardiff, Dan was the youngest of the eight children of Dan O’Neill, who worked in coal exporting, and his wife, Kate (nee McLean), both descendants of Irish immigrants.

He was educated at St Illtyd’s school in Cardiff, where one of his teachers was his own sister Pat. On leaving school, he began a varied career, which included being a bus conductor, grave digger and miner but, for most of his life, he was a journalist.

In 1955, he married Margaret Lowes, whom he met in a Cardiff dance hall. They emigrated to Ontario, Canada, where he took a job as a typesetter for the Hamilton Spectator to get his foot in the door in newspapers. He then became a reporter and feature writer for the same paper. After having three children he moved back to the UK, to Sale, near Manchester, where he wrote for the Guardian. He covered Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour for the paper and also appeared in DA Pennebaker’s documentary on the tour, Don’t Look Back.

In 1966 for another Guardian article, on vanity publishing, he wrote the worst poem he could imagine and forwarded it to a company called Global Poetry. It replied that the poem showed promise and they would publish it for a fee. The poem included the lines: “I saw the children of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in my dream, And I wondered sadly: ‘Could this come to Cheam?’”

In the same year Dan returned to Cardiff, took some time off from writing and ended up mixing cement for the new University of Wales hospital. Wishing to return to writing, he wrote continuity links for HTV and in 1970 went to Newcastle to become a feature writer for the Sunday Sun.

In 1976 he returned to Cardiff to be a feature writer for the South Wales Echo, where he stayed for four decades. He also wrote freelance sports features and rugby reports for the Sunday Times for many years. He finally retired from journalism in 2015 at the age of 85.

Margaret died in 2017. He is survived by his children, Susan and me, and his granddaughters, Francesca and Elena. Another son, Kevin, died earlier this year.

Sean O’Neill

The GuardianTramp

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