The passing of Dr Andrew Lyall

The Society is saddened to learn of the passing of one of our members, Dr Andrew Lyall, on 11 February 2011, aged 78.

Andrew held a PhD and LLD from the University of London and was a barrister of Gray’s Inn.

Beginning his teaching career in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Andrew moved to Dublin in 1980. He taught Land Law at the UCD Law School for 27 years, before retiring in 2007 and moving to London where he continued to actively research and write legal history.

He published many books and articles, including a seminal textbook on Land Law in Ireland (Roundhall); Irish Exchequer Reports (Selden Society); The Acts of James II’s Irish Parliament of 1689 (Irish Manuscripts Commission, with John Bergin); The Irish House of Lords: A Court of Law in the Eighteenth Century (Clarus Press). One of his most recent publications was Granville Sharp’s Cases on Slavery (Hart Publishing). He was a frequent attendee at the ILHS and BLHC, and was well known by many in the legal history academic community.

Irish Constitutional Change, 1920-1922


A video of the event can be watched here


Spring Discourse (via webinar) 2021

During the period 1920-1922, the Government of Northern Ireland was established, ‘’Articles of agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland’ were signed, and the constitution of the Irish Free State was adopted.

When the dust of the War of Independence had settled, the Irish constitutional landscape had changed dramatically. Under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 a devolved administration with a Home Rule Parliament had been established in Belfast for six of the Ulster counties. The act had been a failure in the remaining 26 counties where, following partition, a solution was found in dominion status, so that the Irish Free State bore a relationship to the United Kingdom similar to that of Canada.

In this Webinar, John Larkin, Bláthna Ruane and Thomas Mohr will examine the legal steps during that period by which Northern ireland and the Irish Free State were established and the constitution arrangements which then emerged and what irish people thought of their new consitutional arrangements.

John Larkin QC is a practising barrister at the Bar of Northern Ireland and a former Attorney General for that jurisdiction. He will speak to the topic:-

One Irish Constitution, two Irish Parliaments: the Government of Ireland Act, 1920

Dr Bláthna Ruane SC is a Senior Counsel, who has written widely on the constitution, law and government. She is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Sutherland School of Law at University College, Dublin and was a member of the Constitution Review Group 1995-6. She will speak to the topic:-

The ‘so-called Treaty’: the implications of legal form for achieving settlement

Dr Thomas Mohr is an associate professor in the Sutherland School of Law at UCD and the author of Guardian of the Treaty published by Four Courts Press in association with the Society in 2016. He will speak to the topic;-

What did Irish people think of the Free State Constitution in 1922.”



© Parliamentary Archives





The death of Judge Mary Kotsonouris

The council and membership of the society was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Judge Mary Kotsonouris on 2 February 2021.

In addition to a career at the bar, on the bench, and a number of post-judicial appointments, she wrote an ILHS monograph,
The Winding Up of the Dáil Courts 1922-1925: An Obvious Duty, published in 2004 by Four Courts Press.

An obituary was recently published in the Irish Times
(The Irish Times – Mary Kotsonouris obituary)



Tribute to Professor WN Osborough

By Professor Patrick Geoghegan, President of the Irish Legal History Society



The Irish Legal History Society mourns the death of its founder, and former President, Professor W.N. Osborough MRIA, a wonderful friend and colleague, an inspiring teacher, and a giant in the world of Irish legal history scholarship.

As a distinguished lawyer and judge and former President of the Society has recognised: ‘Another great oak has fallen in the forest. We are unlikely to see his like again. He was a most distinguished scholar, a polymath, a renaissance man.’


It was Professor Osborough’s vision and determination that led to the creation of the Irish Legal History Society in 1988 and he established a steering group to draft the constitution, arranged the financial and administrative structure, devised a publicity campaign, and planned the publishing programme. From the beginning one of the greatest strengths of the Society was the all-Ireland nature of the organisation and many have commented on the connections it has fostered between  historians and practising lawyers North and South over the past thirty-three years. It is one part of his remarkable legacy.

Nial epitomised all that is good about the Irish Legal History Society and from the very beginning we all benefitted from his intellectual curiosity and dynamism, the generous way he shared his unrivalled knowledge, and his friendship and support.  In recent years we have honoured his contribution with the W.N. Osborough Composition Prize in Legal History and we plan to celebrate his immense contribution to the Society and to Irish legal history scholarship when this pandemic is over. Many tributes have been paid to him in recent days by former students and colleagues. For example, a former Attorney General for Northern Ireland mourned the loss of ‘this brilliant and loveable man, whose performative delight in our law was an enchantment’. A Pro Chancellor of the University of Dublin remembered ‘the gentleness of his manner and the breadth and acuity of his scholarship.’


Professor Osborough’s achievements go far beyond his contribution to the Society.   Over many decades thousands of students benefitted from his erudition and scholarship and from the incredible way he was able to get people excited about whatever he was teaching, first at Queen’s University Belfast, then University College Dublin, moving to Trinity College Dublin, before returning to University College Dublin where he served as Dean of the School of Law. One of his former students has noted that ‘He taught a generation of Queen’s law students to think, probably for the first time. We certainly are in his debt. He even made a connection in one lecture, I remember, between John Stuart Mill and violin playing. I am not sure if anyone else has managed this.’

As a scholar Professor Osborough was remarkable. A former editor of The Irish Jurist, his books include a history of the UCD Law School, a legal history of the Irish Stage, and a litigation topography for Dublin, as well as many ground-breaking articles. Upon hearing of his death, an Irish Supreme Court judge noted that ‘His contribution to legal history in Ireland was simply immense, but that should not obscure his legacy as a lawyer . He published an article  in  or around 1976 on Irish practice in relation to suspended sentences which  was an admirable piece of scholarship and which was still being cited in judgments in  recent years’.

Shortly before his own death, Judge Adrian Hardiman wrote in the Dublin Review of Books of how he ‘remembers with appreciation his [Professor W.N. Osborough’s] vivid treatment of the law of torts in University College Dublin in the early 1970s’ before going on to say that ‘his distinguishing feature is that his cultural hinterland is much broader than that of the average lawyer or law teacher and to my mind his legal insights are much the sharper and the more realistic for that.’

Professor Osborough was a brilliant scholar who inspired many generations of students with his insights and imagination. The Irish Legal History Society will never forget his friendship, his many kindnesses, or his remarkable contribution to legal history scholarship.

We offer our condolences to his children, his wider family, and his many friends and colleagues. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell and Prof Patrick Geoghegan speaking in remembrance of Prof Nial Osborough before the Spring 2021 Discourse can be viewed here.


Irish Times, 9 January 2021


The Passing of Lord Kerr

The Irish Legal History Society is saddened to hear of the death of Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore.

A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, Lord Kerr became a High Court judge in 1993 and was Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 2004 to 2009. He served as a judge of the UK Supreme Court from 2009 until his retirement in 2020.

Lord Kerr was a patron of the Irish Legal History Society and a frequent contributor to the Society’s events.

Researching and Writing Irish Legal History in the 21st Century

Instead of the usual format of an AGM followed by a distinguished lecture, this year the ILHS is holding a virtual AGM, followed by a zoom webinar. All members and non-members are welcome to attend the webinar, which takes place on Thursday 10 December at 7.30 pm.

Please click here to join our panel to discuss

‘Researching and Writing Irish Legal History in the 21st Century’

Dr. Lynsey Black (Maynooth University)
Dr. Sparky Booker (Queen’s University Belfast)
Dr. Coleman Dennehy (University College Dublin)
Dr. Niamh Howlin (University College Dublin)


A video of the event can be watched HERE.


Dr Lynsey Black is an assistant professor at Maynooth Unniversity. She researches in the areas of gender and punishment, the death penalty, historical criminology, and postcolonial criminology. Lynsey is currently PI on the IRC New Foundations project, ‘Living Borders: Cattle Smuggling on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Border’. This research is being done in collaboration with the National Museum of Ireland and explores border criminality through the 20th century. Lynsey was a Visiting Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in 2019. She has published in Punishment and SocietyLaw and History Review, and the Social History of Medicine, and is co-editor of the collection, Law and Gender in Modern Ireland, with Hart Publishing. She is currently working on her first monograph, Women, Murder and the Death Penalty in Ireland, 1922-64, with Manchester University Press.

Dr Sparky Booker  is a lecturer in medieval Irish history at Queen’s University Belfast. Before she took this post in 2016, she was a postdoctoral research associate at Swansea University, on the AHRC-funded project ‘Women negotiating the boundaries of Justice, Britain and Ireland, c. 1100-1750’ ( Her current research examines female plaintiffs in the secular and ecclesiastical courts of Ireland from c. 1350- c.1530, and focuses particularly on litigant strategies, overlapping jurisdictions, and the influence of wealth, status, ethnicity, and gender on women’s legal activities. Her doctoral research explored interactions between the English of Ireland and Irish in the later middle ages. She is the co-editor of Tales of Medieval Dublin Dublin, (Four Courts Press, 2014).

Dr Coleman Dennehy has previously taught at Maynooth, Limerick, UCD and University College London, and was a visiting scientific researcher at  the Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Vienna. Coleman He received an IRC Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow for his project, ‘Competing jurisdictions: appellate justice in the Dublin and Westminster parliaments, 1603 – c.1730’. He has published many articles and chapters, as well as Restoration Ireland: Always Settling and Never Settled (Routledge); The Irish Parliament, 1613-89 (Manchester University Press); Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, and his World: Restoration Court, Politics and Diplomacy (Routledge; with Robin Eagles). Coleman has also edited The Evolution of a Colonial Institution; Law and Revolution in Seventeenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts Press).

Dr Niamh Howlin  is an Associate Professor at UCD and her publications include Juries in Ireland: Laypersons and Law in the Long Nineteenth Century (Four Courts Press) as well as articles in the Journal of Legal History, the Law and History Review, Comparative Legal History, and the American Journal of Legal History. She has also edited, with Dr Kevin Costello, Law and the Family in Ireland 1800-1950 (Palgrave Macmillan) and Law and Religion in Ireland (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming 2021). Niamh also works on contemporary legal issues and in 2020 published an empirical study on judge-jury relations with colleagues from UCD and Sheffield Hallam. She is currently working on a history of the Irish Bar.

J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History

Opportunity for Early-Career Scholars

The J. Willard Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History is a biennial event sponsored by the American Society for Legal History.

An ASLH committee reviews applications and selects 12 early career scholars from around the world as Institute Fellows. The Fellows participate in seminars, meet other legal historians, and present their own work. The program is structured but informal, and features discussions of core readings in legal history and analysis of the work of the participants in the Institute.

Scholars in law, history and other disciplines pursuing research on legal history of any part of the world and all time periods are eligible to apply. The seminar and written materials are conducted in English, and we cannot consider non-anglophone applications. Traditionally, the selection committee has sought to create a cohort of fellows with varying degrees of familiarity with the field, and welcome applications from scholars at an early stage of their career (beginning faculty members, doctoral students who have completed or almost completed their dissertations, and J.D. graduates).

Applications for the eleventh Hurst Summer Institute, which will take place from 13-26 June 2021, will be accepted until 15 January 2021. Applicants should be aware that it is possible that the 2021 session may be held remotely. (A decision will likely be made by the end of March).

Applications must include a cover letter, CV, and research agenda (of no more than 2,500 words) as a single PDF document. Submit your application any time between 1 December 2020 and 15 January 2021. Additionally, two letters of recommendation should be submitted on each applicant’s behalf by the January 15 deadline. Questions on the application process can be directed to

The 2021 Institute will be chaired by Lauren Benton, Barton M. Biggs Professor of History and Professor of Law at Yale University, and Sarah Barringer Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

Previous Hurst Institute sessions were led by distinguished legal history scholars, Lawrence Friedman (Stanford University), Robert W. Gordon (Yale and Stanford), Barbara Young Welke (University of Minnesota), Hendrik Hartog (Princeton University), and Mitra Sharafi (University of Wisconsin).

ASLH Conference Online

2020 may be a good year to attend an international conference without the need to travel.

The American Society of Legal History annual conference will be held on 13 and 14 November.  The online program features a carefully curated selection of exciting panels on the legal history of colonialism, slavery and abolition, immigration, and other topics.

You can find the full program here.

Register here. Registration is free for all ASLH members, and you must be a member to attend.

Selden Society and Inns of Court Lecture

The Fire Courts: Successfully Delivering Justice in a Time of Plague and Fire

Prof Jay Tidmarsh, Notre Dame Law School

The Selden Society and the Inns of Court have joined forces to establish a new series of annual lectures open to scholars, students and the general public to show the relevance of a wider understanding of Legal History.

Click here to watch the recording of Professor Jay Tidmarsh in conversation with His Honour Donald Cryan for the first Selden Society and the Inns of Court annual lecture on 21 October 2020

British Legal History Conference 2022

 The British Legal History Conference 2022 is scheduled to take place in Belfast from 6-9 July 2022.  This decision has been taken in consultation with the BLHC Continuation Committee. 

The theme for BLHC 2022 is Law and Constitutional Change.

A call for papers will be made on 15 March 2021

Registration will open in February 2022.

The conference website will shortly be updated.


To preserve the usual biennial pattern of BLHCs, arrangements will be made by the BLHC Continuation Committee for the conference following the Queen’s, Belfast event to be held in 2024.