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A Wonderful Woman Of The World

A fearless lady who followed her heart and the sun

The South African horseracing industry, and the world at large, was deeply saddened to learn of the passing at the age of 93 of the Honourable Patricia Cavendish O’Neill in Somerset West on Tuesday.

Pat O’Neill was a rare lady and champion of all things bright and beautiful. Nobody is bigger than the game, but this is one case where an exception could probably be warranted.

The Hon. Pat Cavendish O'Neill

The Hon. Pat Cavendish O’Neill

An extraordinary animal lover, published author, racehorse trainer and breeder associated with the champion producer Broadlands Stud, Pat would have reached the grand age of 94 on 30 June.

In tributes that poured in to the Sporting Post’s offices immediately after the sad news broke, Ridgemont Highlands’ Amanda Carey, who rode work at Broadlands in her matric year and worked for Pat for over a decade, said that her family were devastated to learn of the passing of a lady who had played a huge part in their lives.

“Aunty Pat was a remarkable lady – a woman of the world – an inspiration – she was like family” added Amanda – whose son Justin said he was proud to call the grand lady his Godmother.

Former champion jockey Garth Puller, who rode many winners for the O’Neill stable, remembered a great horsewoman, lover of animals, and a person who made a huge contribution to our industry with influential stallions and imports from Australia of high class broodmares.

Avontuur’s Pippa Mickleburgh said that Pat was a dear friend and the news of her passing was heartbreaking.

Pat trained from the world-famous Broadlands  Stud in Somerset West and had good horses  – the likes of Swan River, Rose Bay, Miss Lindeman and Mexican Summer, to name but a few. At the time of her passing, she was still married to Frank O ‘Neill, who lives in Australia these days.

A charismatic, warm and unique person, animals were Pat’s life.

The sign outside the old Cape Dutch house on Broadlands Stud says it all.

‘Danger. Giant apes, fierce dogs, wild agapanthus. All these and other species may be loose on the estate. Enter at your own risk. Close all windows.’ 

Broadlands was home to baboons, vervet moneys, a multitude of dogs of varying shapes and sizes, hundreds of feral cats, and giant flocks of ducks and geese.

The Honourable Patricia Cavendish O’Neill  grew up surrounded by animals of all species and sizes.

She was the daughter of the late Brigadier General Frederick ‘Caviar’ Cavendish and Enid, Countess of Kenmare, who loved animals just as much as her daughter did.

Pat’s Mom, Enid Lindeman – hence the name of the brilliant filly Miss Lindeman who she trained – hailed from the famous Australian wine family, and was an internationally renowned beauty who married four times.

Pat’s father died when she was six, but she shared her mother’s belief about fearlessness.

‘I could ride before I could walk. When I was six, my father let me go on a steeplechase. My legs were too short to fit into the stirrups, so I had my feet in the leathers, and it was absolutely wonderful, going over all these jumps at top speed. He was quite cuckoo, but it was fantastic. And this is why I could live with wild animals; they can pick up on your feelings, and if you’re afraid they know about it. I was never afraid.’

Pat always said that her parents taught her three things. ‘Never be afraid, never be jealous, and never complain when you are ill.’

She lived for years in Kenya, at the height of the beautiful country’s political turmoil.

She said she never felt threatened. “I was totally safe, because, according to the local Masai, I was supposed to be the biggest witch doctor in Kenya. I was the only person in the area with Western medicine and I was able to help people when they were ill. And I had a tame lion that slept in my bed – they all thought it was magic. When people had a curse on them, they used to bring them to me, and I would get Tana to walk around them while I mumbled words and then I’d say, “Now you’re fine” and they would get up and walk away. So we used to “undo” the curses, Tana and I,” she once said said.

Pat’s Mum was persuaded by her doctors that the altitude in Cape Town was better for her heart, and Pat followed her in 1968, leaving her beloved lioness behind – a decision she regretted all her life.

Fifty one years ago they moved to Broadlands, the internationally renowned Somerset West farm where she still resided on Tuesday.

Pat trained horses for her Mum and husband Frank. Old racegoers will recall the likes of Swan River, Rose Bay, Miss Lindeman and Mexican Summer, to name but a few. She is still married to Frank, who lives in Australia.

A conversationalist of extreme intellect and creativity, Pat could talk for a week on any subject – from the genius of Terrance Millard to sexist discriminatory practices by the Jockey Club that almost saw her banished to obscurity before she had even started.

Pat published her first book in 2004, entitled ‘A Lion In The Bedroom’ and visited Kenilworth Racecourse in 2013 signing copies of her next – called ‘A Chimpanzee In The Wine Cellar’.

The world is a very poorer place for having lost a lady who always followed her heart and the sun.

They just don’t make Pat O’Neills anymore.

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12 comments on “A Wonderful Woman Of The World

  1. Stan Elley says:

    A truly remarkable lady! Saddened to hear of her passing.
    The second paragraph in the above article really does say it all.
    R.I.P Pat O`Neill.

  2. NOLA RATHBONE says:

    I was introduced to Pat and her devoted friend,Sheila, and her wonderful menagerie by Terrance Millard. I was honoured to be in the company of these living legends. Our love and sympathy to Pat’s loved ones including her animals.
    Remembered with love.


    The same ilk as those grand ladies, Mrs Joyce Waring and Joy Adamson

    Mrs. O’Neill has such allure, something you can’t buy.

    My condolences to the Family

  4. Jeremy Nelson says:

    Very sad to hear this news. Pat was one of my oldest clients although I thought of her more as a friend and mentor. I photographed her stallions Royal Prerogative and Averof as well as her yearlings going to the sales. On one such occasion, while photographing her yearlings, her two macaws dive-bombed me. She once offered me a baby lynx as a pet, but I had to refuse as I lived in a townhouse complex that only allowed domestic pets. My visits always ended with tea and cake and a tour of the animals while her many dogs, including her two Great Danes, followed. I remember her purchasing cheap horses at a dispersal sale to save them from being bought by the butcher.
    I will always remember Pat as one the kindest of human beings that I have ever met. She will be sadly missed.

  5. Jakkie Heunis says:

    A real Lady, with a beautiful, wild spirit.

  6. Jean ROBERTS says:

    I shed a tear for an extraordinary woman and fellow animal lover. Pat made a difference in all our lives, even if she didnt know us very well. Who will look after the pets she had? Possible for someone to put me in contact with Sheila? I would like to offer my help. Whatsapp 0742002764. Jean Roberts

    1. Editor says:

      Jean thanks – we have forwarded your note to people close to Pat

  7. Joan Smith says:

    The Lion in the Bedroom is my favorite book of all time. My daughter in Australia gave me the book and has recently informed me she had died. It was not unexpected but very sad. I would love to have met Pat – she is on a pedestal with Dorothy Brooke how founded the Brooke Hospital for animals in Cairo.

  8. Melany Schultz says:

    The first time I had ever heard of Pat was through my mother, who read Pat’s book “The Lion in the Bedroom”, which is on my bedside table daily. My mother said that I must read it as it is the most beautiful story that she has ever read. I read it slowly to never have it end. Now, I am sad that this beautiful woman with a soul that will never been seen again, is no longer with us and with the people who love her the most. In reading her book, I felt so connected to her, even though not having the honour of ever meeting her. My mother has already informed me that Pat’s next book “A Chimpanzee In the Wine Cellar” will be coming my way in the future, which I am happy about as I will be keeping Pat’s memories alive within my own memories of her through her book. Rest in peace Pat, you are sorely missed.

  9. amina says:

    I’ve worked for her until that Tuesday she have to go to hospital she was the best ever to work for its because of her that I love dogs and cats I spend 20years cooking and looking after her miss her everyday I don’t think I would work for anybody else any more she ask me who I want to see 1st when I dievi said my dogs then her she said the same well I’ll meet her in heaven cause I know shell go there u couldn’t kill a ant then she’s up set 💜😥😥😭

  10. Ingrid Narasimham Vasista says:

    Just read about Pat’s passing away and it made me feel so lonely as if I’ve lost a mother. I knew Pat for a long time as my race filly Breyani was a broodmare at Broadlands. Pat filled out lives with love and warmth. Would love to get in touch with Sheila and Amanda as I am now living in India. Feeling very sad hearing about this wonderful and amazing woman Pat.
    My whatsapp number: +91 9008162912
    Ingrid Narasimham Vasista

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Ingrid – will pass that on

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