COBBERS: Publican John O’Neill, centre, has a long association with Bill Rose, left, and Terry Brown, having given the Airlie Beach/Whitsunday RSL a home at the Reef Gateway Hotel.
COBBERS: Publican John O’Neill, centre, has a long association with Bill Rose, left, and Terry Brown, having given the Airlie Beach/Whitsunday RSL a home at the Reef Gateway Hotel.

The Reef Gateway pub’s RSL rescue

BILL Rose clearly remembers when publican John O'Neill saved the day - or at least saved the Airlie Beach / Whitsunday RSL.

It was 17 years ago when Mr O'Neill, the owner of the Reef Gateway Hotel, approached the former vice president of the RSL sub-branch and offered his business as their new home.

"It was back in 1999 when myself and another chap by the name of Ron Champ were looking for somewhere to hold the RSL," Mr Rose reminisced.

"(John) met us having a cool ale one day and asked if we were still looking.

"(He) asked us 'what do you think about this?' and we could see potential."

And if it wasn't for Mr O'Neill, Mr Rose said the Airlie Beach/Whitsunday RSL probably wouldn't be alive today.

"Since he first took us in, he's been our patron and is our number-one honorary member," he said.

Mr O'Neill, who was one of the top table guests at Friday's celebrations of 100 years of RSL, said giving the local sub-branch its home gave him a sense of being a part of the town.

He said he strongly believed you got back what you put into something.

"And one thing I've always maintained is being part of the community and giving back to the community," he said.

"It feels good to know that you're a part of such a strong community."

Airlie Beach / Whitsunday RSL sub-branch president, Terry Brown, said Mr O'Neill was certainly a very community-minded person.

"He's been very good to us and he's looked after us as well as other parts of the community," he said.

Speaking of Friday's honouring of the centenary of RSL, Mr O'Neill said the achievement was "remarkable".

"There's not too many groups and committees that can boast that they've been going for 100 years," he said.

"It's quite amazing and it's nearly a part of our national heritage."

As for his own contribution Mr O'Neill said he hoped he would "leave a legacy".


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