“Much respected and loved throughout the community”: inspirational MBE David O’Neale remembered by family and friends

PUBLISHED: 10:51 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:51 31 March 2014

Author David O'Neale from Bridgham who has written a book about Harling Memories. Photograph Simon Parker

Author David O'Neale from Bridgham who has written a book about Harling Memories. Photograph Simon Parker


Tributes have been paid to a multi-talented musician, writer, fund-raiser and father of three who has died at the age of 59.

David O’Neale, from Bridgham, was also awarded an MBE last year in recognition of his work for the village.

Mr O’Neale died on March 20 after a two year battle with motor neurone disease.

His friends and family described him as a “courageous” man, who “enriched our lives”, with the string of cultural events and fund-raising initiatives he organised.

His diagnosis came months before he appeared in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

He was married to Hilary for 35 years and had three sons, Edward, Will and Adam.

Hi family paid tribute to him in a statement.

“As the many cakes, flowers and cards that have arrived in the last few days have shown, David was much respected and loved throughout the community and beyond.

“But to us he was a husband and father, and this is the David that we are mourning and shall miss so much.

“It is exactly two years since David was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, and while it has been inspiring watching him achieve so many things during that time, it has also been heartbreaking watching him struggle against this cruel disease that has slowly taken its toll,” it said.

Mr O’Neale moved to Bridgham in 1988 and soon became a dedicated contributor to village life.

He wrote a number of books on village life and history in Bridgham and the surrounding area, with his final work, a booklet on Tinker Joe of Hockham, to be published soon.

His prolific fund-raising saw him help put £220,000 into funds for the village church and a series of community initiatives.

A talented musician, he was Head of Performing Arts at Charles Burrell High School in Thetford and Head of Music at Hethersett High School. He then worked at Norfolk Music Service which involved him working in many schools across the county from 2001.

He was also conductor of the Bridgham and Harling Band as well as the Thetford Music Project.

He also organised the annual Norfolk High School Choirs Festival, involving 400 children.

A memorial service for Mr O’Neale will be held at East Harling Church on April 5 from 2pm.

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