Eccentric Trinity lecturer and historian passes away at age of 97

By Adam Higgins

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) lost one of its leading history minds on August 28 as R.B McDowell passed away aged 97.

Robert Brendan McDowell was the country’s leading historian on Irish modern history and became famous for his eccentricity as a junior dean at TCD.

The Irish Times literary supplement described Mr. McDowell as “probably knowing more than anyone else in the world on the topic of late 18th century Irish history.”

Mr McDowell was instantly recognisable around the Trinity campus with his battered pork pie hat, crumpled suit and shabby coat which was worn in any weather.

He entered Trinity College to study history and politics in 1932, graduating with honours, and emerged with a PhD in 1939.

He entered the ranks of the Trinity staff as a lecturer in modern history in 1945.

In the early 1960’s he appeared regularly on Telefís Éireann as a member of the panel show Postbag.

He later moved to London and joined the conservative party, helping the party with their fourth consecutive general election victory.

Mr McDowell was appointed the Erasmus smiths professor of oratory and history following his return to Dublin aged 90.

His prime focus as a writer was mainly Irish history from the 17th century onwards, as well as the history of Trinity College.

His publications include Irish Public Opinion 1750- 1800 (1944), Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution (1975) and The Fate of the Ulster Unionists (1997).

His funeral took place at 2.30 on Monday the September 5 at Mount Jerome crematorium. A memorial service will be held at trinity college chapel on Thursday the October 20 at 5.15pm.

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