An Appreciation: Andrew Bremner Lyall

Andrew Bremner Lyall  (October 6th, 1942-February, 11th, 2021)

Andrew Bremner Lyall (October 6th, 1942-February, 11th, 2021)


Andrew Bremner Lyall PhD LLM LLD FLS FRHS

(October 6th, 1942 - February, 11th, 2021)

Andrew Bremner Lyall was appointed a college lecturer in University College Dublin’s Faculty of Law in 1980 having been awarded his PhD (“The social origins of property and contract: a study of East Africa before 1918”) at the London School of Economics. He was promoted to senior lecturer in 1997 and retired in 2007, remaining a very productive independent scholar. He moved to London some years later, to be near his elder brothers David and Tom, who survive him.

Dr Lyall’s initial research interests focused on Marxist analysis of the class relations underlying property law in East Africa and elsewhere. A highly-regarded expert on African law and legal anthropology, in later years interest in land law naturally led him to become a legal historian (notably of 18th-century Ireland and of the law on slavery.) His publications reflected his meticulous attention to detail, conceptual rigour and clarity in writing. Land Law in Ireland (first published in 1994 and now in its fourth edition-edited by Dr Niamh Howlin and Dr Noel McGrath, faculty at the Sutherland School) has become the leading student textbook on the topic. As first conceived, it demonstrated Dr Lyall’s socio-legal perspective, including chapters on planning and development and housing law. Later works reflected the turn towards legal history, notably Irish Exchequer Reports 1716-1734 (2009) (Selden Society v 125) which showed his command of the archival material and understanding of historical context. He was also the author of Granville Sharp’s Cases on Slavery (2017) and (with John Bergin) of The Acts of James II’s Irish Parliament (2016). Dr Lyall was an awarded an LLD by the University of London in 1996, for his work on the law of East Africa and on Irish land law. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2018).

He devoted to preparing and delivering his courses with the attention to detail and conceptual richness evident in his publications. Students of land law, as well as learning about debates about the applicability of Althusser’s analysis of modes of production to pre-colonial Africa or contrasts between Nuer and Kikuyu forms of ownership, also received an excellent grounding in estates, tenure, future interests and the other traditional elements of the subject. He developed a course in African law (later legal anthropology), delving more deeply into some topics broached in land law and long aspired to offer a course on the legal protection of cultural property. While this never came to pass during his time in UCD, he would be pleased to see that this is now a major focus within UCD Sutherland School of Law’s research.

Andrew graduated with an LLB from University College London in 1966. He then went to East Africa with Voluntary Service Overseas and held several academic posts at University of East Africa (University of Dar es Salaam after 1970), the last as a Senior Lecturer (1974-76). He obtained an LLM there in 1973. He became an Advocate of the High Court of Tanzania in 1971 and was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn, London in 1979. Andrew was deeply impressed by the optimism and collective ambition he found in recently independent Tanzania. This was reflected in his lifelong commitment to equality, the right of all to dignity and respect, human rights and social justice and his role in the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Andrew was a valued and much-loved colleague, whose many friends throughout UCD and across the world will remember him fondly.

John O’Dowd