Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P. Pal

One of the better known street characters of Kings Cross died this morning, suddenly collapsing after attending St Vincents Hospital Casualty.

Pal, as he preferred to be called, was a gentle, intelligent person who was dealt a lousy hand in the game of life. He suffered from a variety of physical and mental problems which combined to exclude him from society and employment. However he never complained, and was always honest in his activities and courteous to the many locals who befriended him. 

He was dependent on charity and welfare for survival. His deterioration and death in his forties is a testament to the poor standard of care available to marginalised people.

The photograph was taken in October 2004 at his request after he had found a used syringe in the street and posed with it in his mouth.

His funeral is likely to be this week at the Wayside Chapel, where he was a regular.

PS: (3/10/08) Pal's real name was John O'Connor and this week's Wentworth Courier carried a story about St Vincent's Hospital staff who knew and liked him and held a dinner in his memory. He had admitted to the hospital over 800 times.

PPS: (7/10/08) The Sydney Morning Herald ran a major story on Pal on October 4. Thanks to the anonymous commenter below for the link.


Anonymous said...

There were some people who like the diversity of the Cross and some residents like myself who found him an absolute nuisance

Anonymous said...

SMH letters 6 October

Heroin addiction a condition not a crime

I was shocked to see John O'Connor on the front page of the Herald, though sadly not surprised he was dead ("Death of a million-dollar man: we paid to keep him homeless", October 4-5).

I knew John as a young man, indeed, smoked my first joint with him and then saw from afar his fast descent into hard drugs, a walking lesson to myself and my peers on what heroin did to a bright and inquisitive mind.

In more recent times I'd seen him locally - now he served as a warning to my children. I never helped, bar some loose change he'd ask for. He didn't recognise me, he was too far gone.

Who knows what a different outcome there might have been if, early on, his heroin addiction had been treated as a medical condition instead of a crime.

Rest in peace John.

Michael McHugh Potts Point

John O'Connor suffered a deadly combination of drug dependence and mental illness which caused his chaotic and destructive behaviour. In a better system he would have been involuntarily held in a secure residential facility where he could be treated and kept safe.

In NSW this means incarceration because, since we have emptied our psychiatric hospitals, there is little hope for people like John to live a dignified existence in safety.

His frequent flyer status at the

St Vincent's emergency department cost the taxpayer a fortune and all the short, well-meaning interventions came to nothing.

Dr Raymond Seidler Kings Cross

The Editor said...

Anonymous (1) found Pal to be an "absolute nuisance". Yes, he was good at going through garbage and leaving an unholy mess on the street.

On the other hand I remember buying some books from him that he had scavenged, and I remember the time he tried to become an apprentice shoe polisher outside Kings Cross station for Marcus (a now rehabilitated gambling addict who ended up on the street). Unfortunately the Police kept shutting them down.

He was always approaching me about a partnership in design projects, and when admonished kindly he would clean up his garbage mess.

Anonymous (1) seems a little harsh, ignoring the larger issues outlined in the Herald story -- that it would cost society a lot less money to provide accommodation and basic care for these people. His garbage raids decreased in proportion to the degree of care he received.

I am surprised to hear claims he was a heroin addict. On my observation he stayed out of the dealing circles, rarely had the money to maintain a habit but was known to scavenge used syringes from the garbage, mix 'cocktails' from the dregs and inject them. I saw it as a death wish and given the hand he was dealt in life, what else did he have to live for except cigarettes and drugs? It's easy for some to judge.

Anonymous said...

Saturday October 4, 2008, The Sydney Morning Herald

O'CONNOR, John Michael.
September 27, 2008.

Late of Darlinghurst, formerly of Read Street, Bronte.

Loving son of Denis and Marian O'Connor (both deceased).
Much loved brother of Wayne and Anthony, brother-in-law of
Suzanne, fond uncle and great-uncle of James, Chris,
Liam, Brian, Isabella, Christain and Aleah.

Aged 45 Years

Sadly missed by family and all who knew and met him

The relatives and close friends of JOHN are invited to attend his funeral, to be held in its entirety in the chapel of Walter Carter P/L, 302 Oxford Street,
Bondi Junction (opp. Denison Street), on Tuesday (October 7, 2008), commencing at 1 p.m.


Australian Family Owned
9389 3499. 9389 3367

Anonymous said...

I was shocked to see the smh article too..often saw him around and never saw him abusing anyone...