John de Courcy Ireland

Maritime historian and CND activist


John de Courcy Ireland, maritime historian: born Lucknow, India 11 October 1911; married 1933 Betty Haigh (died 1999; one son, two daughters); died Dublin 4 April 2006.

John de Courcy Ireland was a teacher, maritime historian and a polymath who was not afraid to express himself forcefully in favour of nuclear disarmament and the politics of the left.

The son of a British army major from Co Kildare, he was born in 1911 in the Indian city of Lucknow. His father died of fever in China when John was very young. His mother continued to live in Beijing for several years, but John was sent back to England, to Marlborough College, where he was expected to work towards a respectable university education.

Just before his 17th birthday he ran away to sea, serving as a deckhand on a Dutch vessel sailing to South America. He consented to return to read History and Spanish at New College, Oxford, which offered him a scholarship. After Oxford he and his wife Betty, whom he married in 1933, spent much time in the Aran Islands in the west of Ireland and in Co Donegal, in order to master the Irish language.

In 1943 he was a founder of the Maritime Institute of Ireland, an educational charity first sited at Dún Laoghaire, and in 1959 of the Maritime Museum in Dún Laoghaire. He undertook research into Ireland's maritime history and campaigned for recognition of the country's maritime heritage. (The lack of merchant vessels and the consequent precarious supply of essential imports had been a particular worry to the authorities in Dublin during the Second World War.)

In 1949 he taught at St Patrick's Cathedral School in Dublin and the next year received his doctorate on the sea in education from Trinity College Dublin. He moved in 1951 to Drogheda Grammar School and subsequently taught at Bandon Grammar School, Co Cork, and from 1968 at Kingstown Grammar School, Dún Laoghaire. This was amalgamated with Avoca School, Blackrock, to become Newpark Comprehensive School, south of Dublin, where he stayed till 1986. There in 1983 he produced Ireland's Sea Fisheries: a history, the first of a wide-ranging series of books on the sea.

With his wife, de Courcy Ireland was an early member of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and at the end of his life its president. He feared for the health of the seas and the potential disaster from nuclear fall-out that could ruin the water and do away with its potential as a source of clean renewable energy.

Betty, who had been a nurse in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, and he were supporters, at various times, of the Irish Labour Party, the Communist Party, the Democratic Socialist Party, the Democratic Left and latterly the Socialist Workers' Party. John de Courcy Ireland campaigned in favour of a continuance of Ireland's neutrality and argued that all wars were crimes against humanity. They emphasised differences between peoples, he said, when to achieve a peaceful world, the common humanity of all people had to be emphasised.

De Courcy Ireland was a director of the National Museum of Ireland and in 1996 he was awarded the Caird Medal by the National Maritime Museum in London. In 1975 he was a founder member of the Irish-Chinese Cultural Society, keeping up the strong links with China which went back to his early childhood. As I found to my delight in many conversations with him, he also maintained a close interest in Latin America: in 1995 he published a life of Admiral William Brown, the Irish-born founder of the Argentine navy (The Admiral from Mayo: a life of Almirante William Brown of Foxford, father of the Argentine navy).

The following year he brought out The Sea and the Easter Rising and in 2001 History of Dún Laoghaire Harbour, an account of what was in its time the largest man-made anchorage in the world. He was active till the end of his life and celebrated his 90th birthday in Melilla, the Spanish possession on the coast of Morocco, where he was researching what seems to have been the world's first organised lifeboat service.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Environment
Pigeons have been found with traces of cocaine and painkillers in their system
environmentCan species be 'de-extincted'?
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
A Pilgrim’s Progress is described by its publisher as “the one-and-only definitive record” of David Hockney's life and works
people
Sport
Loic Remy signs for Chelsea
footballBlues wrap up deal on the eve of the transfer window
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker
TV
Life and Style
Instagram daredevils get thousands of followers
techMeet the daredevil photographers redefining urban exploration with death-defying stunts
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'
TVDaughter says contestant was manipulated 'to boost ratings'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking EY...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: NEWLY QUALIFIED TEACHER WE CAN HELP ...

Lead FE Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, jQuery, Knockout)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead FE Softwa...

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed for Se...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor