Saturday 17 March 2018

Texan keeps Blackwater at its best

Bill with his wife Ann Marie and committee members Bridget Cullen and Martha Breen at a Tidy Towns fundraiser in Blackwater.
Bill with his wife Ann Marie and committee members Bridget Cullen and Martha Breen at a Tidy Towns fundraiser in Blackwater.

TEXAN BILL O'Neill, the man who led Blackwater to its great showing in this year's Tidy Towns, is a retired paediatric dentist who grew up in the desert thousands of miles from his adopted home.

Bill, who hails from Dallas, said that Blackwater's second placing in the county could not have been achieved without the great support he, as chairman, and his Tidy Towns committee had received.

'We had great support from the home village: People taking care of their own properties and working on projects,' he said.

'We were delighted to be invited to the award ceremony and to earn second place in the county, said Bill, who bought a home in Blackwater with his Irish-born wife Ann Marie 14 years ago.

'We've been living here for the past eight years since I retired,' he said, adding that the couple spent most of their time in Ireland interspersed with visits to Dallas and Chicago to see their daughters.

He said one of the biggest things that had been overcome locally was to change attitudes.

'The attitude that things can't be done is gone and now when we see that something has to be done it's a case of how we can get it done,' he said, reprising the old Obama mantra of 'yes we can' at a local level.

'The idea that something that has to be done is somebody else's responsibility has changed – we're getting ownership of the village.'

Bill described Blackwater as fantastic.

'I grew up in the desert west of Dallas and it's wonderful to live in a village that is so green that has a river running through it.

'I think sometimes when you live in Ireland and you have things like that on your doorstep you can take it for granted,' he said, adding that there pictures of him out sweeping the streets in a high-viz jacket on his Facebook page.

'I tell the kids, get your education – otherwise this is how you'll end up!' he said.

Committee secretary Martha Breen described Bill as a very diligent, hard working chairman.

'We had a good start and we have been working hard for the past couple of years and that has paid off, but we still have a long way to go,' she said.

'We came second in the county our of 35 entries. Last year we were joint fourth with Bree so its great to achieve this.'

Martha said the support of all the villagers had been vital and everyone was very heartened by the results.

The next project she said was to persuade the ESB to lay power lines underground.

'That will be a real challenge in the present financial circumstances,' she said.

But, Martha said, quoting Bill: 'Let's see how we can get it done.'

Wexford People

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