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Bishopsgate Institute

O'NEILL, Gilda Ann (1951-2010)


Reference code(s): GB 0372 ONEILL

Held at: Bishopsgate Institute

Title: O'NEILL, Gilda Ann (1951-2010)

Date(s): 1865-2008

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 14 Boxes

Name of creator(s): O'Neill, Gilda Ann (1951-2010) historian and author


Administrative/Biographical history:

Gilda O'Neill was born in Bethnal Green in 1951, the granddaughter of a Thames tug skipper and a pie-and-mash shop owner. Her parents, Dolly and Tom Griffiths, originally from Bow, eventually joined the postwar slum clearance diaspora in Dagenham, Essex. Leaving school at 15, she took a succession of office and bar jobs in the City. In 1971 she began a whirlwind romance with John O'Neill and married him a week after their first meeting. After their son and daughter were born, Gilda went back to education and began writing after studying at the Open University and the Polytechnic of East London.

In 1989, Gilda's first book was commissioned, the oral history Pull No More Bines: Hop Picking: Memories of a Vanished Way of Life (1990) for the Women's Press (it was reissued as Lost Voices in 2006). She had been fascinated by her mother's accounts of hop-picking in Kent as a girl, and indeed had accompanied her there as a small child. Her first novel, The Cockney Girl (1992), drew on her family experience, but combined it with careful research, also a feature of the crime novels she wrote in later years, of which The Sins of Their Fathers (2003) was the first in a trilogy. Gilda was prolific. Over 20 years, she published 15 novels and five social histories.

She participated regularly in workshops, and co-founded the writers' network Material Girls. In 2008, she joined the National Reading Campaign and contributed not only her book East End Tales (2008), a collection of easy-to-read childhood memories, to the campaign but also lent real fire to what might otherwise have been earnest events. Gilda died from side-effects triggered by medication prescribed for a minor injury in 2010.

Her publications include: My East End: Memories of Life in Cockney London (1999), Our Street: East End Life in the Second World War (2003), The Good Old Days: Crime, Murder and Mayhem in Victorian London (2006). Her novels, include family sagas such as The Bells of Bow (1994) and Just Around the Corner (1995).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Gilda O'Neill (1951-2010), including: drafts of published and unpublished works; research notes; press cuttings collected for research and regarding campaigns; notebooks; correspondence with contributors and readers; audio tapes; reviews (1865-2008)


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The O'Neill Archive is divided into the following seven sections:

O誰EILL/1: Typescripts

O誰EILL/2: Handwritten Notes and Notebooks

O誰EILL/3: Press Cuttings

O誰EILL/4: Letters and Other Communications

O誰EILL/5: Oral History Interviews

O誰EILL/6: Book Covers and Dust-Jackets

O誰EILL/7: Miscellaneous

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying and scanning facilities are available for a charge and will be completed by archival staff if condition and copyright permits. Digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Finding aids:

Adlib catalogue.



Accruals expected.

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited with Bishopsgate Institute by John O'Neill, 5 April 2011



Archivist's note: Entry compiled by Grace Biggins

Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997

Date(s) of descriptions: 29 November 2016

Social history | History

Personal names
O'Neill | Gilda Ann | 1951-2010 | historian and author

Corporate names