Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If what you seek is a memorial to Gerard Slevin, who died on January 18th, simply look around you. He was one of a trio of European heralds who in the mid 1950s were tasked with devising a symbol for the Council of Europe, and it was his suggested design of the now ubiquitous circle of 12 golden stars on a deep blue background that finally found favour with the establishment in Strasbourg. This achievement received scant recognition in Ireland, although it was widely acclaimed in heraldic circles in Europe, winning for him membership of the prestigious Academic Internationale d'Heraldique the only Irish person, to my knowledge, to be so honoured.
He was born on the feast of All Saints, November 1st, 1919 to John and Bridget (nee Kennelly), Wellington Road, Cork. His formal education took him first to the Christian Brothers School, North Monastery and then to University College Cork, where he achieved the degree of Master of Arts, summa cum laude in philosophy and English at the age of 21.
His early career was a lecturer in St Patrick's Teacher Training, College, Drumcondra, where he spent a number of years before entering the Civil Service in 1944. He was immediately posted to the Genealogical Office, which at that time was located in the Bedford Tower, Dublin Castle. There he served as assistant to the Chief Herald, Dr Edward MacLysaght, until 1954. In that year he was appointed Chief Herald in succession to Dr MacLysaght, a post he occupied with distinction until his retirement in 1981.
His period of stewardship at the office was characterised by a steady expansion of its activities. He initiated an advisory service for personal callers to the office who were interested in tracing the history of their families. He organised a corps of research assistants to facilitate the production of ancestry reports on behalf of overseas clients of the office.
As a respected exponent of heraldic design, he brought to bear on this aspect of his work a wideranging knowledge and a critical mind, allied to a keen sense of the importance of graphic impact in artistic design. During his term of office several hundred patents were issued to Irish public bodies, including civic and municipal authorities, as well as to persons off Irish descent living in all parts of the world. The confirmation of arms he prepared at the behest of the Government for President Kennedy in the early 1960s is still considered a masterpiece of heraldic design.
He was an engaging speaker and for him the role of the lecturer was akin to that of the actor. He had a lifelong interest in the theatre and was awarded first prizes in successive years for his entries in the Oireachtas drama competitions; these plays were later performed in the Abbey Theatre. In recent years he was a director of amateur drama with the Rathmichael Dramatic Society.
To his wife Millicent and their sons Mark, David and Paul and families, we extend the hand of sympathy in their loss. Tibi enim, tabardo totius Hiberniae quandam inducto, quies aeterna.