(CANON) COSSLETT QUIN

 

For Cosslett Quin a word was not merely the ephemeral vehicle of a passing thought; it was something enduring with a history, a value and a life of its own, to be respected, safeguarded, collected and cherished. Its history reflected in miniature the history of nations and empires, the movement of races and people and all the romance implied in these activities. Languages attracted, indeed fascinated him, not only for their vocabulary, but for their syntax and of course, their history and literature. He collected languages as other people collected pictures, ceramics, and other works of art; and through their languages he learnt about nations and their peculiar national genius. His mind was broad and receptive as his heart was large and generous. He had mastered a dozen languages and was absorbed in their literature.

A son of the rectory, his father was Rector of Derriaghy Parish, a suburb of Belfast, not particularly renowned for its interest in the Irish language. His home was tolerant and cultured and deeply imbued with Christian love and charity. He went to Mourne Grange Preparatory School near Newry where he is said to have heard his first Irish words and to have been captivated by the language and his desire to learn it irrevocably evoked. He then attended Campbell College, Belfast, a school in the liberal Presbyterian tradition, where his natural brilliance gained him recognition as a scholar in the making. At Trinity College that natural ability developed in the School of Classics which was of world renown. He won the Vice Chancellor's Prize for Latin, and won a gold medal in Classical Moderatorship. He proceeded to the Divinity School where he won numerous prizes and took a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He returned to Belfast to the parish which he attended while at Campbell, St Mark's Dundela, as curate to the remarkable liberal theologian and social innovator, Canon Ernest Hayes. Curate and rector were in the same tradition, expressed in the classic phrase "nothing human was foreign to them".

Alter a short incumbency on the Inishowen Peninsula he returned temporarily to academic life to teach classics and Irish in St Columba's College, Dublin, but the call of the parish and the life of the people was too strong for him and he returned to parish life in the Diocese of Kilmore. There he met and married a daughter of the neighbouring rectory Doreen Jennings. They were well met and were blessed with a lifetime of mutual devotion and happiness and the joy of their family, John, David and Etain. Scholars tend to become absorbed in the subject of their study and to become perhaps a little distracted from the routine requirements of our mundane existence and Cosslett was no exception; but Doreen, though always of a scholarly turn of mind herself, had her feet firmly on the ground and acted as a sure ballast in the journey of life. They complemented one another perfectly and fulfilled each other's heart and mind. Doreen's concern for and commitment to the welfare of prisoners, the distressed and the degraded in society involved them both in evangelically inspired social work which touched for good many broken lives. His scholarship and her work of social concern occupied them very happily since Cosslett's retirement from the active ministry in 1971.

His knowledge of Greek, both classical and koine led to his appointment to the Chair of New Testament Greek in TCD in the 1960s. He made a fine translation of the New Testament from Greek into Irish in 1970; and later translated the Apocrypha from Hebrew into Irish; together with recent translations from Spanish into Irish. Irish was his first and abiding love. He always had his Irish and Greek New Testament with him. He was at home with people of many religious and political traditions. They recognised his integrity, his tolerance, and his constant intention to bring good out of evil. Our country North and South, will be the poorer of his passing. One remembers him with his inseparable pipe in his mouth listening carefully to a seanchai for the slightest inflexion which might change the significance of a word, or a new and unusual construction in syntax; or speaking with his pipe in his hand and sometimes grimacing as he strove to bring out the exact quality of a word catching the subtlety of its sound. He was at home in all the dialects of Irish having stayed on the Great Blasket in the late 1920s and moved later to Gola and Tory Island in the Ulster Gaeltacht. Few men knew Ireland in all its richness and complexity as well as Cosslett. He was a true patriot.

"Tiocfaidh me ar ais chugaibh aris agus glacfaidh me isteach chugam fein sibh, ionas go mbeidh sibh mar a mbim."