BILL O’Donnell – who has been described as ‘one of the last icons of Bantry’ – has died.
Many heartfelt tributes have been paid to the man who – as a person and as a publican at the Anchor Tavern for some 50 years – was valued as ‘a great character and raconteur.’
Bill was always colourful, in character and conversation, and it was generally agreed that he ran one of the best hostelries in West Cork.
It was in his humour that the lighter side of him shone through. One former employee gave a quintessential example of this when she said that Bill – late at night – was fond of saying: ‘You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.’
In a tender tribute on Facebook, his grandson, Nicholas O’Donnell, dedicated one of his finest photographs – a mystical sky, iridescent with stars – to Bill.
Nicholas admired Bill as a man ‘who lived such a great life, a man who had hitchhiked over 8,000 miles, always told a great story, pushed the Council for years to build the marina development, published two books, and most of all supported me – not only with my photography but with life.’
Bill died peacefully on Thursday, January 5th, at Deerpark House. He was the beloved husband of the late Tui (née Russell), and the dear father of Kathleen, Michael, Tui (Pankhania) and Barbara.
He will be sadly missed by his loving family, daughter-in-law Lynette, son-in-law Harish, grandchildren Laura, Ellen, Nick, Louise and Jesal, great-grandson Leo, brothers Barry and Brian, sister-in-law, nephews, nieces, relatives and a large circle of friends.
It was at the age of 85 in October 2013 that Bill published his first book, The Small Kingdom, a story of love and intrigue set on an island community in Cork South West.
He wrote that first novel after attending an activities workshop at the Deerpark nursing home, using boxes of old papers, diaries and photographs as an aide memoir.
The following summer, his second book, a memoir of his world travels, The Shortest Way Home, was launched at Bantry Tourist Office and Bill himself did a star turn at the West Cork Literary Festival.
The book gives an account of how Bill, while still in his early twenties, left Bantry to live and work abroad.
In the years that followed he did everything from selling magazines in Los Angeles, to working on the railroad in California. He even spent time working on a ranch before travelling on to Australia and New Zealand, where he worked on a number of farms. He also lived on the Pacific Islands – the place where he met his wife, Tui.
The couple came back to Bantry because it was where they wanted to raise their family, and Bantry was all the better for it.