Ben Vrackie, Pitlochry: Bill O’Neill 1943 – 2014

It was a perfect spring day when a group of six of us walked up Ben Vrackie above Pitlochry in Scotland.  There was still snow on the top of the mountain but on the lower slopes we were warm and it was pleasant to stop and rest on the way.  I found a couple of memorial benches that caught my eye on this mountain, including this one to Bill O’Neill; I certainly liked the sound of a person who treated each day like an adventure.

An obituary in The Herald told me that Bill O’Neill died suddenly while climbing in the mountains above Pitlochry on Sunday 23 March 2014.  This was just a little over 12 months before we were walking up this fine mountain.  The obituary paints a brief but colourful picture of a man of many parts, ‘medic, mountaineer, philosopher, joker’.

Bill O'Neill 1943 - 2014 Mountaineer For Whom Each Day Was An Adventure Fondly Remembered By Fran And His Friends

Bill O’Neill
1943 – 2014
Mountaineer For Whom Each Day Was An Adventure
Fondly Remembered By Fran And His Friends

Overlooking Loch a Choire below Ben Vrackie

Overlooking Loch a Choire below Ben Vrackie

6 comments on “Ben Vrackie, Pitlochry: Bill O’Neill 1943 – 2014

  1. Afzal Monir. says:

    Bill O’Neill is a greatly missed friend. I owe him my gratitude for kindly introducing me to his beloved hills and miss his company. I think of him frequently when we (his friends) are together on the hills. I frequently like to recount one of his favourite questions while we trudged up the slopes–regardless of the weather–” what’s your happiness level, right now, on a scale of 1-10,” he would ask, often with the rain bouncing off us; needless to say, his was always an 11. Amongst many things, we miss the irreverent conversations.
    He had said, on several occasions, that he would never be able to tolerate infirmity in future years, and that his preference was to leave earth while on the hills. Sadly but fittingly, he did so.

  2. Thank you so much for getting in touch. I love to hear more about the people remembered by the benches I come across. It think I would have liked Bill O’Neill if I had met him and I am pleased he is not forgotten. You are very lucky to have good friends to enjoy walking up the hills with, even in the rain the Scottish mountains are a wonderful place to share.

  3. Frances Hardy-Smith says:

    Bill was my partner of 13 years. I had done the Scottish Munros and many other beautiful hills in UK and France and Italy. But I came awake on meeting Bill, progressing to the Dolomites, Pyrenees, US mountains, including the President hills and Mt Whitney.
    Canadian peaks, Everest BC twice,Indian high treks, Pakistan treks, Peruvian conquests, Touqbal in Morocco….it was endless. Yet I was always aware that whereas I was always “stepping up”, Bill was down-scaling to accommodate me.
    I am eternally grateful to Bill for the excitement, the feeling of being alive, that he gave me. Miss him so very much, even after 6 years. Loved him so much.
    So grateful that the Fergusson family for their help in putting the bench in place in Bill’s honour.
    Fran, as in the dedication.

    • How wonderful to hear more of Bill’s story and yours too. That list of mountains is impressive. What adventures you must have had together. I can only guess at how much you must miss him but it sounds as if you got so much fun from your shared life. The memorial bench is a fitting tribute and one of my favourites that reminds me of a glorious and precious day of walking with friends. Thank you.

  4. Miss. Simone Hardy-Smith says:

    Mum, thinking of you and Bill today and tomorrow. It’s a celebration, not a sadness. Well, there is sadness – but which two people could have done all that? Two stubborn people, united in their love of marvellous landscapes, countries, hills, adventures – and each other.

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