The funeral of Pat O’Neill, who died a week ago at the age of 93, will take place at Doves Funeral Parlour in Somerset West at 2.00pm on Thursday.
The famous eccentric detailed her extraordinary lifestyle, centred on wild animals treated as pets, in her two volumes of autobiography A Lion In The Bedroom and A Chimpanzee in the Wine Cellar while those that other people treat as pets were elevated to almost human status. People invited for afternoon tea were apt to find that a host of cats were also on the guest list and had at least equal rights to everything on the table.
She played a significant part in racing. She moved from Kenya to join her mother, the Countess of Kenmare, at the Broadlands Stud on the N2 in the late 1960s and the stallions they stood included the St James’ Palace Stakes winner Averof and Royal Prerogative, a tough campaigner who reached far higher levels as a stallion than suggested by his racecourse performances. He was several times champion sire, 13 times champion broodmare sire and his 60 stakes winners embraced 25 Grade 1 horses including Royal Chalice and the Met winner Mark Anthony.
Pat and her mother were also regular importers of mares from Australia. She rode in races and had considerable success as a trainer. Cape Town punters nicknamed her Mama Marysa after her champion Marysa whose long winning career proved profitable for backers. Other notables that she trained included Swan River, Miss Lindeman, Rose Bay and Mexican Summer and her achievements are commemorated in a montage of photographs on the second floor of the Kenilworth grandstand – an honour reserved for the likes of Terrance Millard, Mike Bass, Peter Kannemeyer, Laurie and Jean Jaffee, and Graham and Rhona Beck.
By Michael Clower