No. 19157, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 25)
No known grave
Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)
Ballywalter and District War Memorial
Ballywalter Presbyterian Church
Family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter
John O’Neill was born on 1 August 1890 in Ballywalter and he was a son of James and Eliza O’Neill (nee Bell) who were married on 17 January 1881 in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church. James O’Neill from Ballywalter was a son of James O’Neill, a labourer. Eliza Bell from Ballywalter was a daughter of Thomas Bell, a labourer.
James O’Neill was a seaman who then worked as an agricultural labourer and he and Eliza had at least nine children, all of whom were baptised in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church:
Mary Jane (born 27 October 1881 in Ballywalter)
James (born 16 September 1883 in Ballywalter; died of tuberculosis 16 February 1903 aged 19)
Sarah (born 7 July 1885 in Ballywalter)
Eliza (born 30 November 1887 in Ballywalter)
John (born 1 August 1890 in Ballywalter)
Samuel (born 24 September 1892 in Ballywalter)
Margaret (Maggie, born 30 January 1895 in Ballywalter)
Ann (Annie, born 11 April 1897 in Ballywalter)
William (born 16 August 1899 in Ballywalter)
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War, John O’Neill worked as a general labourer. He enlisted in Ballywalter and served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division.
Rifleman John O’Neill was 25 when he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France; on Ballywalter and District War Memorial and in Ballywalter Presbyterian Church. He is also commemorated on the family grave headstone in Whitechurch Cemetery Ballywalter.
John’s mother Eliza died of hemiplegia just four weeks after her son, on 29 July 1916 (aged 58).