Dennis O’Neill was born in Newport, Wales on the 3rd of March 1932. He was your average little boy who enjoyed doing all the mischievous, fun things that all little boys like to do. He was born into a large family, his parents were very poor. Dennis had older brothers and sisters but he was closer to his two younger brothers Terry and Freddie. Dennis was particularly close to his younger brother Terry who he met up and played with after school each day, Dennis was very protective of Terry. The little boys were often hungry and cold in their home but they did not know physical cruelty. Dennis went to school and would come out each day and meet little Terry in the street, Dennis would walk towards Terry with one foot on the road and one foot on up the kerb, doing a funny kind of walk just for some fun. One day in 1940 Dennis, Terry and Freddie were taken from their parents and placed into foster care.
Dennis and his younger brothers went on to live in different places a hospital at first then a children’s home and then in the homes of some very kind foster parents. Dennis enjoyed regular hot baths, delicious meals every day, going to school and to church. Dennis enjoyed playing in open fields with his brothers at these foster homes; he told Terry scary stories as they walked home from school on dark wintry days, he collected watercress from river banks to take home and eat on sandwiches, he played in woods, he went bird nesting and he loved to swim and make dams in creeks with Terry and Freddie in the warm summer weather. Dennis loved to collect frogs and tadpoles in jam jars from ponds, he liked to play ‘aeroplanes and gliders’ with Terry in the open fields around the home where he lived with his kind foster parents. Dennis was protective of his younger brother Terry and defended him from school bullies. He made an apple pie at school one day and afterwards proudly shared it with his brothers. Dennis could be a tattle-tale from time to time, sometimes getting Terry into strife. Dennis was the boss, he said clever things and was a quiet, kind and well-mannered little boy.
In June 1944 Dennis and Terry were taken to live with new foster parents Reginald and Esther Gough at Bank Farm in Minsterly, Shropshire.
Dennis went to the local village school with Terry and made pocket money by picking crab-apples and selling them to local shop owners. Dennis worked very hard everyday doing his chores on the Gough farm with Terry working alongside him. He loved the animals, he was good at bringing in the horses and cows and feeding the chickens. Dennis enjoyed visiting and playing with his youngest brother Freddie who was living with a family at a neighbouring house. Dennis was good at school, he and Terry looked out for each other. Dennis worked hard and did his best to please at all times. Dennis had dark hair and was a good looking young boy. At the age of 12, Dennis was a well-behaved, quiet and polite little boy.
On the 8th January 1945, Dennis was violently beaten by Reginald Gough.
On the 9th January 1945, 70 years ago today, Dennis died in his bed from his injuries.
Dennis O’Neill is more than just a name on the files of untold numbers of court, government and social services documents. He is more than the subject of an inquiry, more than a wiki page, the subject of blog posts and cause for change. Dennis O’Neill was a real little boy who loved to run and play and get into scrapes, who lived and laughed and went to school and had friends. He was a son and is a brother and an uncle. And for as long as his name is known and for as long as he is held dear by his remaining family and for as long as we who read about him and care about what happened to him…..he will be remembered and loved.
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