Danny O’Neill in Down The Years

SEA CAP­TAIN NOW CU­RA­TOR OF MAR­ITIME MU­SEUM

Bray People - - NEWS -

WHAT Cap­tain Danny O'Neill doesn't know about the sea­far­ing isn't worth know­ing. With more than six decades at sea to his credit, he is a walk­ing en­cy­clo­pe­dia of mar­itime is­sues and has a long and distin­guished ca­reer to show for it.

Hail­ing from Ark­low, a town steeped in rich mar­itime her­itage, Danny’s fate was to de­part at the ten­der age of 13 when he joined an un­cle on a fish­ing boat that worked all around Ire­land’s coast and as far as the Isle of Man.

His first foray into this world was short-lived, how­ever.

‘I was called back home to fin­ish school. At that time the le­gal age for leav­ing was 14. I didn’t fin­ish though. I went off on an­other fish­ing boat soon af­ter. That was the way it was that time. I was the el­dest of a big fam­ily, seven of us,’ says Danny.

From there, Danny later joined one of Ark­low’s coastal ships, be­fore the days of Ark­low Ship­ping and then on to Bri­tish ships and B&I com­pany.

‘It was a good ex­pe­ri­ence. I worked my­self up on deck. It was dif­fer­ent to an ap­pren­tice­ship. You went to Third Mate, then Sec­ond, then First, then Cap­tain. I had worked on deep wa­ter ships, tankers when I de­cided to go for my Mate Cer­tifi­cate.’

At the age of 28 Danny moved posts once again to take up a job with Ir­ish Ship­ping. Here he worked world­wide on ‘ Tramp Steam­ers’ which took him to far flung lo­ca­tions, some­times for months at a time. These ships didn't fol­low a sched­ule in the same way as lin­ers.

Dur­ing his ca­reer, Danny docked in China, Hong Kong, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Amer­ica and count­less other des­ti­na­tions and saw parts of the world that many could only dream of.

‘In those ear­lier days be­fore such quick turn­around times were in­tro­duced we some­times docked for long pe­ri­ods so we could see the area. I once spent three weeks docked in Mau­ri­tius. Nowa­days it’s dif­fer­ent and flights al­low crews to fly to meet their ship, not wait for it to ar­rive back be­fore they can board.

‘ The longer stints at sea came about when Danny sought more of a chal­lenge. I got bored just go­ing back and forth to Bri­tain. It was no longer chal­leng­ing so I de­cided to change but be­ing away from home and fam­ily wasn’t easy.’

In 1963 Danny wed Roisin and they went on to have four daugh­ters.

‘ There were times when I was away for up to a year. I did miss things like the birth of my two el­dest daugh­ters, lots of Christ­mases and it was hard. Get­ting in touch wasn’t so easy ei­ther. I wrote letters to let my fam­ily know where we were docked and where we were head­ing to. It was of­ten dif­fi­cult to make a phone call and to get hold of lo­cal cur­rency to do so.’

In time con­di­tions changed and Danny took a job with Bell Lines, which he de­scribes as a ‘very pro­gres­sive ship­ping com­pany’.

‘Grad­u­ally with the pass­ing of time con­di­tions im­proved and the leave im­proved and I could do a month on and month off.

‘Over a num­ber of years this came about and it made life eas­ier.’

Danny is mod­est about his own achieve­ments and when pressed ac­cepts that mak­ing the rank of Cap­tain, which he did for the first time in 1963 was quite an achieve­ment.

‘I sup­pose it was a big deal at the time. At that time if you changed jobs though you didn’t nec­es­sar­ily go into the next one at the same rank. It was only when the larger ship­ping com­pa­nies broke up that you could move with your rank and you didn't have to work your way up from the bot­tom again.’

In the later years of Danny’s ca­reer he moved closer to home and worked in fish­ing con­trol for the Ir­ish Govern­ment among other jobs.

‘I re­tired in 2000 but I didn't re­ally. I kept on work­ing away on jobs in Ark­low and I’m still amus­ing my­self on my own boat ‘Cheers’ to­day.’

As if that wasn’t enough to con­tend with at the age of 78 Danny is also the cu­ra­tor of the Ark­low Mar­itime Mu­seum sit­u­ated in the Bridge­wa­ter Cen­tre and has just pub­lished a book that he has been writ­ing for most of his life.

‘I started it way back as a boy and only fin­ished it seven years ago. All my daugh­ters helped out and my daugh­ter Noreen de­cided to send it off to a pub­lisher. I used my four dis­charge books from my time at sea to doc­u­ment what I have done and seen over the years.’

‘Out of Ark­low’ by Capt. Danny O’Neill is a must read for any­one with a pas­sion for all things mar­itime or those who sim­ply love a good story. It will be on sale on Ama­zon.com from May.

Cap­tain Danny O’Neill in the Ark­low Mar­itime mu­seum.

Cap­tain Danny O'Neill with one of his crews.

Capt Danny O'Neill on the bridge of his ship in the Suez Canal in the 1990s; with a crew mem­ber.

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