Lives Remembered

Aidan & Emily O'Neill: Stars aligned for much-loved Omagh couple born a day apart

Aidan and Emily O'Neill were born a day apart and spent almost 60 years together before their deaths within a fortnight of each other

AIDAN O'Neill was born in Omagh, Co Tyrone on July 13 1941, the youngest son to Jack and Ellen.

The following day in Tuam, Co Galway, Emily Henderson was born, eldest daughter to Jack and Mary.

The stars aligned for a couple that would be together for almost 60 years before departing this world just weeks apart.

As lead singer of popular showband The Platters, which also featured the musical talents of the late Arty McGlynn on guitar, Ray Moore on trumpet, Pat Chesters on saxophone, Leo Doran on saxophone and clarinet, Brendan O'Donnell on piano and accordion and the late Jackie Adams on drums, Aidan toured the length and breadth of Ireland in the late 1950s and early sixties, playing dance halls and marquees in every county.

Aidan O'Neill performing with The Platters

It was when performing at the Phoenix ballroom in Galway that a young Emily caught Aidan's eye.

While they did not get speaking to each other that particular night, they did get chatting when The Platters returned to Galway the following month.

A long-distance relationship ensued, culminating in marriage on August 15 1962.

Aidan and Emily O'Neill were married in August 1962

Emily moved to Omagh to begin a new chapter in her life with Aidan, and hopes of starting a family.

Having been touring with The Platters since the age of 16, Aidan made the decision to leave the band and end life on the road, resuming an apprenticeship with local newspaper the Ulster Herald, which he had initially embarked on when he left school.

He was to work for the paper up until his retirement in 2005.

During those decades he witnessed the many changes and advances in the newspaper industry as he moved from being a linotype machine operator to a word processor operator, before spending his latter years as a proof reader.

And despite focussing on a career with the newspaper, Aidan's superb singing voice was still often heard over the years at numerous functions and the weddings of his nephews and nieces.

In 1963 Emily gave birth to Philomena, with son Brendan and daughter Lynda being born in the following years.

With the children all attending school, she sought employment, gaining work as a kitchen assistant and then cook at the former St Brigid's secondary school in Omagh.

She had good company, as three of her sisters-in-law also worked there, along with her brother-in-law who was caretaker at the school.

Aidan and Emily O'Neill were married in August 1962

Over the years Emily proved very popular with the children and staff, with one former pupil from decades previous taking the time to write a very personal and heartfelt letter to her family following her death.

Emily later worked at St Conor's primary school in the town, before taking early retirement in 1994 to care for grandson Luke, the first of seven grandchildren.

In the years that followed, Emily and Aidan took great interest and pride in the successes and achievements of all their grandchildren.

Sadly, Emily passed away unexpectedly at home on December 8, with Aidan, who had been suffering from multiple myeloma in recent years, passing away on December 23.

Having been born within a day of each other and then been married for 58 years, they were destined never to be apart for too long.

While they have been reunited in the next life, a huge void is felt by the family and friends of this popular and much-loved couple.

B O'Neill

Aidan O'Neill performing on the BBC

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Lives Remembered