Ewart Bell, prominent civil servant and rugby player, dies


Sir Ewart Bell, a former Irish rugby international and head of the Northern Ireland civil service, has died.

Sir Ewart (76) was returning from a holiday in Scotland on Tuesday when he died suddenly.

Born in Belfast in 1924, he was educated at Methodist College, Belfast, and graduated from Wadham College in Oxford.

After serving for two years as an assistant master at Cheltenham College, he returned to Northern Ireland to join the civil service in 1948. He worked in the Ministries of Health, Local Government and Commerce, being appointed assistant secretary at the Ministry of Commerce in 1963.

He was promoted to the rank of secretary in 1973, and from 1976 until 1979 served as permanent secretary at the Department of Finance.

In 1979 he was appointed head of the Northern Ireland civil service, a post he held until his retirement in 1984.

Married with two daughters, he was a director of the Ulster Bank from 1985 to 1995 and was a senator and honorary treasurer of Queen's University from 1985 to 1993.

Sir Ewart, who was knighted in 1981, was active in Co-operation North, the organisation devoted to improving cross-Border relations. He earned four international caps for Ireland, in 1953 and 1954, but he was best known for his work as a rugby administrator. He was president of the IRFU in 1986-'87 and director of the Rugby World Cup in 1991 and 1995.

The current head of the North's civil service, Mr Gerry Loughran, offered his condolences to Sir Ewart's wife, Lady Kathleen, and family.