Death of Trinity historian McDowell aged 97


THE DEATH has taken place of prominent historian, author and Trinity College Dublin academic Robert Brendan (RB) McDowell at the age of 97.

He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and in 1932 went to Trinity, where he got a first-class degree and then a PhD. His thesis was subsequently published in 1944 as Irish Public Opinion 1750-1800.

After a brief stint teaching history at Radley College public school in Oxfordshire, England, in the mid-1940s, he returned to Dublin in 1945 and was appointed lecturer in history at Trinity. He devoted the rest of his working life to the institution, where he lived until the age of 94, serving as tutor and junior dean and registrar of chambers besides continuing to teach and write.

His works include: British Conservatism, 1832-1914; The Irish Administration 1801-1914; The Irish Convention, 1917-1918; Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution, 1760-1801; Mahaffy (with W.B. Stanford), Trinity College, Dublin 1592-1952 (with D.A. Webb);and a memoir McDowell on McDowell.

In 2007, The Trinity College Historical Society, Hist, of which he was vice-president unveiled a portrait of McDowell, which can be seen in the Graduates’ Memorial Building, alongside Douglas Hyde and Theobald Wolfe Tone, among others. Hist president David McConnell described him as the most distinctive and effective orator of his time.

“No other speaker in my experience brought together such wit and wisdom, intellect and intuition, with such apparent effortlessness. We learned as much as we laughed, and we laughed a lot.”

The society was very saddened to hear of his death and his memory would last forever, Mr McConnell said.

“Modest and self-effacing, a very fine historian, the best-loved junior dean, no one epitomised the Hist better than he. It was fitting that he was appointed to the Chair of Oratory in the year before he retired.”

His funeral will take place next Monday at Mount Jerome Crematorium Harold’s Cross, Dublin. A memorial service will be held in the Trinity College Chapel on October 20th, at 5.15pm.