Appreciation: Peter Edmund O’Connor, 1940-2023, integrity, energy and legacy

Businessman and devoted parent and family man left a deep impression on all those who knew him

Peter Edmund O’Connor was born in Quetta on the Northwest Frontier province of India, on December 3, 1940, where his father, a senior surgeon in the Indian Medical Service, was stationed.

The Hindu Kush Mountains was a wonderful place for a young boy to grow up. The Khyber Pass was the route for the armies of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Peter’s childhood even included occasional visits to the palaces of the Khans and maharajahs – such were the wonders which characterised his childhood.

All this changed in 1948 after Indian independence when Peter’s family returned to Limerick. It was a difficult transition for Peter’s father as there were few opportunities for surgeons. With that in mind, Peter’s father joined the British diplomatic service as a physician/surgeon to the British embassy in Kabul in Afghanistan.

Peter and his sister Ann were soon sent to boarding schools in Ireland. Peter, to Clongowes Wood College under the tutelage of the Jesuits, and Ann to Mount Anville, with the Sisters of Sacred Heart. Both spent their holidays with Irish family relations, though Peter felt he got the short end of the stick, Ann staying with her cousins in the big city of Limerick while he was lodged in the depths of the Irish countryside with an elderly aunt and uncle. Though a loving and caring environment, it was not the Khyber Pass.


Peter was not so great at sports, however. His brother Richard remembered Peter’s front teeth were knocked out by a blow in a hurling match and that was that

Summers brought freedom and long vacations, spent on Achill Island. These times were fondly remembered by both Peter and Ann and created a strong and enduring affinity for Ireland. At Clongowes, Peter was prominent in the senior debating society and the school academy. It was here that Peter developed skills so important in law and his future business career. Peter was not so great at sports, however. His brother Richard remembered Peter’s front teeth were knocked out by a blow in a hurling match and that was that.

An avalanche of letters was exchanged between his family in Kabul, carried in the diplomatic courier bags from Kabul to London, on to Clongowes and back again. Career options and university courses were discussed in great detail, his father replying with significant points heavily underlined in red ink.

While a student at The Inns, Peter developed and refined his fine taste and knowledge of good wines which became a love of Australian wines, especially reds. Throughout the years, Peter remained a loyal alumnus to Clongowes and Trinity. His great friendship with Fr John Looby SJ from Clongowes spanned over 65 years.

Early in the 1970s Peter met and married the lovely and lively Sally (née Burt), from Perth in Australia, who at that time was working as an OR nurse in London. They were married 52 years.

Peter and Sally were exceptional parents: determined that their three daughters would grow up to be independent and successful women, a role in which they have all excelled. Peter was also and loving grandfather to his six grandchildren, Sebastian, Paddy, Leila, Samuel, Benedict and Evin. Peter’s mother Eileen lived to the great age of 103, and even though separated by many miles, Peter was a devoted and supportive son. Peter was a great support to his sister Ann, encouraging her in a career as a talented artist and during her long struggle with Parkinson’s’ disease.

Peter was a man of love, generosity, kindness, integrity, and great personal faith. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather and brother.

When reflecting on Peter’s legacy in Australia, Duncan Craib, managing director of Boss Energy, said: “Never did we see him so happy and inspiring as sitting at the head of the table, ready to ‘conduct an orchestra’ rather than play the loudest tune. Peter led by example.”

Peter battled against melanoma with determined dignity and courage. Even while ill, Peter was thinking of others

Bill Beament, Peter’s executive chairman of Northern Star, said: “He was a humble man of many layers. He was a mentor, guardian and adviser to so many. We all miss his charm, humour, flare and energy.”

Peter and Sally were delightful in their energy and enthusiasm for life. A humble and thoughtful clarity characterised Peter as a friend and as a creative, thoughtful business leader. Peter is survived by his loving wife Sally, daughters Ashling, Natasha and Kassia, brother Richard, and six grandchildren. Peter battled against melanoma with determined dignity and courage.

Legacy was a real thing in Peter, in his family, in his church and in business. Even while ill, Peter was thinking of others. Although he has gone, the legacy of this wonderful man lives on.