Author, historian dead at 84

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Paul O’Neill wrote award-winning book on history of St. John’s

Paul O'Neill

A writer, actor, broadcaster and historian who many will best remember for his detailed, 900-page account of the history of St. John’s has died at the age of 84.

Paul O’Neill wrote “The Oldest City” in the mid-1970s, a book originally published in two volumes that has since been made available as one book.

It won the Canadian Historical Associations’ Regional History Prize in 1979. CBC, O’Neill’s former employer, first reported his death Tuesday afternoon.

In a 2003 interview with The Telegram, O’Neill was asked how he would like to be remembered.

“I think the same way so many Newfoundland writers of the past are remembered.

“As people who helped make this place a better society and enhanced the life of people here through their work. If it were not for Judge D.W. Prowse, writing “A History of Newfoundland” (originally published in 1895), there’s so much we wouldn’t know and we are enriched by it. I would hope that my efforts have enriched the people of St. John’s.”

Born at what later became

St. Clare’s Hospital in October of 1928, O’Neill spent much of his childhood in Bay de Verde, where his father was a fish merchant.

According to a biography published on the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage website, O’Neill graduated from the National Academy of Theatre Arts in New York in 1949. He went on to pursue acting for several years in America and England.

O’Neill eventually came back to Canada and settled into a role in 1954 as a producer for CBC. He worked on a variety of shows over a 32-year career with the public broadcaster, including “Skipper and Company,” “Reach for the Top,” and “Musicraft.”

He wrote several books concerning events in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history and its folklore. O’Neill was also a published poet, wrote scripted radio plays, and produced documentaries. He was named to the Order of Canada in 1990.

The Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador named a university scholarship after O’Neill.

Organizations: CBC, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage, National Academy of Theatre Arts Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Oldest, Canada Clare Bay de Verde New York America England

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Recent comments

  • barbara mercer
    August 14, 2013 - 07:43

    what a loss to newfoundland I had the pleasure of meeting paul when he came to dinner at my bed and breakfast in upper island cove what a great human being ,,,,,,,,,,,,kind and unassuming,,,,,,,,,,a quiet presence that could dominate a room with his presence,,,,,,,,,,he will be remembered with much love and respect,,,,,,,,,,,,may angels cross his path with flowers ,,,,,,,,,Barbara mercer