Nial Osborough obituary: Ireland’s best lawful historian

W. Nial Osborough

Born: February 13th, 1939

Died: December 29th, 2020

With the passing of the inimitable William Nial Osborough, Eire has shed its most incredible and various legal scholar. His legacy is posted do the job that ranks him amid the world’s terrific lawful historians. He will dwell on in the memory of the countless numbers of regulation pupils that he inspired.

Born in Belfast shortly in advance of the outbreak of the second Entire world War, he was the 2nd son of William Thomas Osborough and Joan Ashley. His father served in the Royal Irish Fusiliers during the initial Entire world War, attaining the rank of acting sergeant, a British War Medal and the Victory Medal, prior to returning to his pre-war employment at the Ormeau Road branch of the Belfast Banking Company. The loved ones moved to Bangor, Co Down, on his father’s appointment as branch supervisor there in 1949.

Following attending secondary college at Fettes College in Edinburgh, he returned to Northern Ireland to study regulation at Queen’s University just before getting a scholarship for postgraduate examine at Tulane College in New Orleans. He returned to Queen’s as a lecturer in 1963, before an appointment to the law faculty in College College Dublin (UCD) in 1968. A decade later on he moved to Trinity as professor of law in which his colleagues provided Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese and head of division, Robert Heuston.

Having taught and created on numerous topics previously in his profession, notably tort, he returned to Belfield as professor of jurisprudence in 1988 exactly where he delivered final-yr regulation college students with the most eclectic curriculum conceivable for that topic.

Freestyle character

For occasion, in autumn 1996, the educational calendar year commenced with a unforgettable exposition on the legal standing of ordinance 14 in Large Whiskey – a prohibition on firearms in the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven that he experienced viewed the earlier night. Far more orthodox learners, used to understanding by rote and who yearned for lectures that intently adhered to the construction of some typical monograph, discovered his mercurial model impenetrable and the freestyle mother nature of his discourse terrifying as it bore small resemblance to any jurisprudence textbook to be found in the UCD library. But the great majority of his pupils thought of the sheer originality of his idiosyncratic presentation the singular highlight of their undergraduate education.

His educating was the item of his innate curiosity. For him, legislation was just about everywhere: it was to be discovered in film, in literature, on avenue indicators and on packaging on grocery store shelves. Lectures on blood feuds in medieval Icelandic literature and in modern-day-day Albania were deployed to show that the occasional privatisation of criminal justice by vigilantes was a historic norm, the notion of a state-controlled criminal justice technique staying a comparative newcomer.

Much more than any other regulation teacher, his skill to talk critical concepts about lawful guidelines, by way of mundane examples from daily lifestyle, brought on his students to replicate deeply on considerably broader queries about the mother nature of our authorized procedure and the rule of regulation alone.

Uniquely, he had stints as equally head of the legislation school in Trinity and dean of the regulation college in UCD but it was as a researcher and author exactly where his finest talents lay.

Founding member

Ireland’s finest legal historian was a founding member and former president of the Irish Lawful Background Society which has honoured him as a result of its yearly W.N. Osborough Composition Prize in Lawful History.

He paid out small heed to his nominal retirement when he turned 65 in 2004, continuing thereafter to instruct legal background and publish prolifically as emeritus professor of jurisprudence and legal record at UCD’s Sutherland faculty of regulation.

A modest and humble gentleman, possessed of a wicked feeling of humour, he minimize a acquainted figure for decades in and close to Belfield, producing measured, stately progress on his bicycle to and from his property in Mount Merrion, with trouser legs tucked into his socks, protected from the things by a cap and beige raincoat that experienced seen far better times. His pure charisma, endearing eccentricity and voracious hunger for know-how ensured that discussion or engagement on any topic, which he normally relished with students and colleagues alike, was entertaining, unpredictable and insightful in equivalent evaluate.

Among the his a lot of publications were Borstal in Ireland: Custodial Provision for the Young Grownup Offender, 1906-1974 (1975) Legislation and the Emergence of Contemporary Dublin: A Litigation Topography for a Capital Metropolis (1996) Scientific tests in Irish Authorized Heritage (1999) Literature, Judges and the Law (2008) An Island’s Law: A Bibliographical Information to Ireland’s Lawful Previous (2013) and The Irish Stage: A Lawful Historical past (2015). He also wrote a heritage of the UCD regulation school in 2014.

He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy in 2003. He was a former editor of The Irish Jurist.

He is survived by his kids Sarah (Sydney), Rachel (Bangkok) and Conor (Guernsey), his elder brother Peter (Bangor) and his grandchildren Callum, Sahara, Shaelen, Caelan and Chloe. He was predeceased by his spouse, Margaret, in 2014.