Robert O’Neill was undoubtedly the most charismatic writer with whom I ever had the privilege of working; I was his desk editor at Longman as they published Kernel Lessons Intermediate (KLI). He was also to become a friend, and even agreed for a time to lend the use of his name as Company Secretary to BEBC.
In his public life, Robert was often outrageous, but only to stimulate a response from his audience, whether it was an individual or a group of teachers. His extraneous comments and references to bodily parts or their functions are legendary. In many ways he shared a love of language and life with the likes of Dylan Thomas and you couldn’t help being drawn to him.
He always thought outside the box, long before the expression (or the box) had entered common parlance and especially when dealing with established “authority”. He described working on KLI as “a glorious battle” and this was working with his publisher who, to mix metaphors, spent a lot of time trying to force Robert inside a box of their making.
At a time when publishers are now seeking to re-brand authors as mere “content providers” it is particularly sad and ironically fitting that the ELT world has lost its most colourful and creative contributor, the like of whom we shall never see again.
John H Walsh
Managing Director at Bournemouth English Book Centre
1st August 2014