Colam O’Neill who died on May 30, 2018 aged 67 was the former Managing Director of Allergan Pharmaceuticals Ireland. Colam is survived and hugely missed by his wife Mary, his sons Conor and Finbar, his daughters Aoife and Orla, his grandkids Thomas, Kelly, Ruairi, Siophra, Donagh, Cian, Alannah, Daria and Sarah, son-in-law Tom, daughters-in-law Gemma, Aisling and Emma, his brother Eoin and sisters Eithne and Catriona, by the wider family and his many friends. He is predeceased by both his parents Kathleen and Seamus O’Neill, his son Neill and his grandson Seán. He was laid to rest in Aughavale Cemetery after an emotional but beautiful Funeral Mass.
Colam was born in July 1950. He was the youngest of four children born to Kathleen and Seamus O’Neill. He lived alongside his brother Eoin and sisters Eithne and Catriona in 25, Glenart Avenue, Blackrock, Co Dublin. Education was the family business for the O’Neills with all Colam’s siblings immersed in the sector. So ever the rebel Colam headed west to Mayo and into the manufacturing industry in the mid 1970s.
He took a Quality Supervisor position in a company called Travenol in Castlebar which is now called Baxter. There he met his future wife Mary. He formed lifelong friendships with Hughie MacDonnell, Liam Conroy and John O’Sullivan who took Colam under their wing and showed him the sights of Castlebar in the mid 1970s. Places like the Rainbow Lounge and the Sunset Rooms were frequented, regularly.
Not long after their first child was born the family moved to live in Carrowbeg Estate in Westport where Colam had recently taken a Production Manager position with Allergan which had constructed a manufacturing facility in the west of Ireland. Colam, the fourth person to be employed at the site, moved through the ranks and he was appointed Director of Operations in 1985 and was promoted to Managing Director in 1989. Colam was Site Leader for 16 years until he retired in 2005.
During Colam’s leadership, the site went through rapid expansion. Colam was instrumental in building the key foundation stones of the Westport Campus. Colam loved Allergan, and he loved the people in Allergan more. It’s hard to describe how much Allergan meant to him, but maybe this will highlight it. On the day he woke in the ICU ward of Mayo General Hospital, after taking a turn after a routine operation procedure, he asked family members what was the Allergan share price.
With the family growing they moved to Moyhastin and that is still the O’Neill family home today. The family eventually grew to five kids. Outside of work and family, Colam loved sport. In soccer he supported Manchester United but he would never admit it. He also took great joy from the Irish soccer team’s exploits over the years.
In the Euro 88 match, Ireland v England, with 15 mins or so to go, England brought on Glenn Hoddle. Colam got very nervous about this and couldn’t take the pressure, so he went to cut the grass instead to ease the strain. That basically meant he turned on the lawnmower, left it idle and watched the rest of the match from the open window. He would often reminisce that that win for Ireland as being one of his happiest sporting memories.
Golf was another big passion. He loved golf. He was honoured to be captain of Westport Golf Club in 1990 and was president from 2001 to 2003. Colam’s golf handicap never went below 16 but in his actions and his words he was ‘the best golfer in Westport’. His phrases such as ‘you should have seen me today lads’, while performing a practice swing always made people laugh or when just after he would hit a good shot he would turn to his playing partners and say ‘if I only had the time for this game!’ That phrase is legendary.
Of course, Gaelic football and the Dubs were his biggest sporting passion. Phrases and comments such as ‘you can beat an egg but you can’t beat the Dubs’ or ‘the Dubs are back lads’ were common place. He took immense pleasure and craic in Dublin’s many achievements but he would have been the happiest man in Ireland if Mayo had ever got over the line and won that elusive All Ireland before he died. Again, he would never admit that in public.
We O’Neills in Westport are a very tight group. We all live in Westport and are engrained in each other’s lives. That tight family unit has been rocked somewhat over the years. First with the death of Colam’s grandson Seán, his daughter Orla’s son. Colam loved Seán dearly, as all the family did. And while he was only with us for a brief time, Seán brought immense joy to all our lives. Then, of course, there was the sudden death of Neill, Colam’s son, last October. The tragedy of Neill’s passing is hard for the family to explain in words such is the huge void it left on the family’s and Colam’s lives, one that is now only widened for the family by Colam’s passing. The support the family get from everyone and the tightness of our internal group means we will get through this and begin to pick up the pieces over the coming months and years.
Of course, Mary (Mam) is key in this group too. She was always a loving wife to Colam and a very caring mother to all her kids and now a very loving granny to her grandkids. Loads of people have said pleasant things to the family about Colam since his passing but the one that sticks out for us is that we as a family should be so proud of Colam. And we are proud, proud for everything he did for us and the community. We will love you and miss you forever. So rest easy Colam and give Neill and Seán a kiss from all of the family in Heaven.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh and ‘mind yourselves!’