'I hope and pray I'll find Jimmy before I die' - Irishman's 70 year search for brother who disappeared aged 16

'I hope and pray I'll find Jimmy before I die' - Irishman's 70 year search for brother who disappeared aged 16

IRISHMAN Frank O'Neill was just five years old when his brother Jimmy disappeared.

Seventy years have since passed but the Waterford native has never given up hope of finding his long lost sibling.

James 'Jimmy' O'Neill vanished without a trace 10 days before Christmas from his Waterford city home on December 15, 1947.

He was aged just 16 at the time and has never been heard from or seen since - making him one of Ireland's longest missing people.

His brother Frank believes Jimmy may have stowed away on a ship heading for England and says not knowing his sibling's fate has been a painful burden all his life.

"Not knowing is the biggest thing ever," he told The Irish Post.

There have been suggestions that Jimmy may have travelled on to New York or even New Zealand but attempts to find out more have proved a dead end to date.

At the time of his disappearance, Jimmy O'Neill was working for the Clyde Shipping Company, which operated between Waterford and Liverpool.

"We think he went from the Quay in Waterford City by boat to Fishguard harbour in Wales," said a 75-year-old Frank.

"Nothing was ever heard of him again. There was a suggestion that he could have gone to New Zealand but he could be anywhere.

"I was only five years of age at the time but I would love to make contact with him if he is still alive or with relatives who know about him."

Frank O'Neill believes his brother may have made his way to Liverpool and from there travelled on to New York, because that is what the Irish did back then.

He has checked ship manifests from the time and there is one in particular that stands out, which is pictured below.

A ship's manifest from 1952 with the name James O'Neill on it

"I always hope and pray that before I die I will obtain, however small, some information if he is dead or alive," said Mr O'Neill, a former Waterford Crystal glass cutter.

Jimmy O'Neill aged 12 or 13

"I pray night and day and have gone to Mass every day since September 9, 1980, which was my last day cutting glass at Waterford Crystal."

James Malachy O'Neill was born in Morgan Street in Waterford City on November 26, 1931.

If alive today, Jimmy would be 86 years old.

He was one of five children in the O'Neill family - alongside a sister Nancy and brothers Jack and Frank.

Another brother Noel died aged six months.

Frank O'Neill's mother and father, Bridget and James, died in 1974 and 1966 respectively never knowing what became of their second youngest son.

With the help of friends, Mr O'Neill set up a Facebook page Finding James Malachy O'Neill in the hope of finding his brother.

He also written to New Pork's Police Commissioner and enlisted the help of Finders International in the hope of tracking him down.

His sister Nancy, who had lived in New York for 36 years but returned to Ireland after her husband passed away, also lived in London between 1952 and 1958.

"She always made enquiries about Jimmy," said Frank, who feels he is now running out of time to solve the mystery of his brother's disappearance.

"I was the youngest and never had anyone to grow up with," he said. "I never married. I saw my late parents' grief - around holiday time, Jimmy's birthday, the day of his disappearance.

"I still have all those days etched in my mind, it's something I can't eliminate. But somebody must know him."

If you have information about James 'Jimmy' O'Neill please email [email protected] or call 0044 20 8900 4193.