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Posted 26.4.22

Hugh O'Neill - In Memoriam

It is with great sadness that we record the passing on 21st April of Choir Vice President Hugh O’Neill.

For Choristers, the Choir’s highest accolade is normally only bestowed on those who have completed 50 years service and  Hugh is one of a very small number of Choristers who have been awarded a Vice Presidency ahead of that milestone, in recognition of meritorious service.

His service with the Choir started in 1987 and it quickly became clear that as well as an asset to the Second Tenor Section on stage he would prove to be an invaluable member of the Choir’s ‘back room team’ without whom the Choir would not be able to function. During his time with the Choir he held the post of Chairman for four terms and covered numerous other roles as a committee member relating to publicity and marketing as well as holding the position of Choir Treasurer and Choir Marshall. Even when not holding a formal role he was keen to assist in the administration of the Choir and spent many an hour updating various Choir documents, including putting together a detailed job description for each of the numerous Choir posts.

During his time as Chairman Hugh led a small Choir delegation to Lambeth Palace at the invitation of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now the Right Reverend and the Right Honourable The Lord Williams of Oystermouth.

Hugh also led the Choir when it visited Geneva in 2008. As well as a charity concert in the City, the Choir was invited to visit the 

Large Hadron Collider Project at CERN, by Dr Lyn Evans, the Project Leader. The visit was considered sufficiently important to see the then First Minister for Wales, Rhodri Morgan attend the concert in Geneva and join the Choir on its visit to CERN.

Given Hugh’s love of rugby, one event in 2010 was particularly memorable with the Choir being invited by the Scottish Rugby Union to sing at a tribute evening to the late,legendary rugby commentator Bill McLaren

 The event was held at Murrayfield and attracted some of the top names in world rugby. Hugh is pictured at the post-event reception with then Choir Musical Director Joy Amman Davies and Dennis Gethin, then President of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Hugh was also no stranger to Royalty during his time ‘in the Chair’, with the Orpheus appearing before Her Majesty the Queen, at the inauguration of the South Hook liquified natural gas (LNG) terminal in Milford Haven in 2009 and also performing in the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace, in the presence of The Princess Royal, the following year.

Despite his busy schedule with the Orpheus, both on and off the concert stage, Hugh still found time to make a significant contribution to the work of the Choir’s Supporters’ Association, MOCSA. Most notably with his time spent as Competition and Concert Organiser. His outstanding contribution was recognised with the Association making him a Vice President in 2013.

Hugh was a Swansea boy, born in 1942 and spending his childhood in Llansamlet.  His working life, as a Civil Engineer, saw him undertake projects throughout Wales including two very much close to home: The section of the M4 north of Swansea and the Wychtree Underpass in Morriston in which the Orpheus actually performed immediately prior to its official opening. 

Sadly his failing health in recent years saw his active involvement with the Choir prematurely curtailed. The memories of his time with the Choir remained a source of joy to him however as those current choristers who regularly joined him ‘pre-pandemic’ for lunch were able to testify. The Choir owe him a great debt of gratitude for his huge contribution over many years.

To Hugh’s wife Sian, who, throughout their 38 years together, has shared many of Hugh’s experiences at home and abroad with the Choir, all at the Orpheus and MOCSA extend our deepest sympathy at this sad time. Your support for Hugh, particularly in recent years when his mobility was severely restricted has been immense.

A lovely, genuine, highly principled person’. ‘A man of integrity and commitment’. ‘A man who led by example’. Just some of the tributes paid to Hugh O’Neill by those who knew him.  As we say farewell to Hugh we also say a heartfelt thank you for doing so much for the Orpheus. Rest In Peace dear friend.

Hugh’s funeral will take place at 3:30pm on Wednesday 4 May at Swansea (Morriston) Crematorium. Family flowers only but family have suggested that donations in lieu, if so desired, can be made to a charity of your choice.

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