A lifelong search for a lost brother

A lifelong search for a lost brother

Frank O’Neill, now 79, speaks about his 75 years’ search for his brother

THE heartbroken brother of Ireland's longest missing person has told how his unwavering faith has helped him cope with his lifelong anguish over his sibling's mysterious disappearance.

James 'Jimmy' O'Neill vanished without trace from his home in Waterford on December 15, 1947, when he was just 16.

His only surviving sibling Frank O'Neill, who was only four at the time Jimmy was last seen, has spent his life trying to find out what happened to his big brother.

Speaking about the 75th anniversary this Christmas of the teenager's baffling disappearance, Frank, described how Jimmy worked for a shipping company which operated between Waterford and Liverpool. One long-running theory is that once in Liverpool he stowed away on a ship to the US. It is also possible that arriving in Liverpool he became part of the Liverpool-Irish community, or perhaps went further afield in Britain.

Despite having only vague memories of his older brother, bachelor Frank, the youngest-of-seven, admitted the pain of not knowing what happened to him remains as raw as it was 75 years ago.

He said his late parents and siblings never recovered from the loss.

“I'm the only family member left and I've asked myself many, many times what happened to him. I've done my own investigations, written to people and organisations and charities. There was one occasion some years ago when I thought I had a breakthrough, but it came to nothing.

"He's been missing for 75 years now, but it doesn't get any easier with time. I think about him every single day, and with the anniversary of his disappearance coming up, it's been on my mind even more than usual.

"My faith has been a huge help. I never married, and without my faith I have nothing. I pray for Jimmy twice a day, once when I get up in the morning, and then at night before I go to bed."

Frank said that he is still haunted by a hazy and distant memory shortly after Jimmy disappeared, when he recalls being in the school grounds and seeing a man staring at him from the outside railings.

He still wonders to this day if that mystery man could have been Jimmy coming to say goodbye to his baby brother.

He added: "All I can do is keep looking. I owe it to my brother and my dear parents and siblings to keep searching for answers. Someone out there has information, and I need them to come forward. I'll never stop praying for him, and I'll never stop hoping."