OBITUARY:Professor Robert Heuston

The death of Robert Heuston is a serious loss to English legal history. As the author of Lives of the Lord Chancellors, 1885-1970, he is the refounder of judicial biography as a respectable art form.

Although on first meeting a shy, even austere man, Heuston was a delightful, witty and insightful companion. He was also a devoted teacher. Generations of undergraduates at Pembroke College, Oxford (where he was a Fellow from 1947 to 1965), remember him as the proverbial guide, philosopher and friend - and sometimes rather intimidated dean. His time as the college's first Law Fellow ensured an eminence to law teaching at Pembroke which was continued by his successors - Dan Prentice and John Eekelaar. He loved the college's traditions and he enjoyed and savoured those same traditions at Trinity College Dublin, where he moved as Regius Professor in 1970, after five years as Professor at Southampton University.

Intellectually, Heuston was probably a transitional figure in both the study of tort law and of legal history. His successive editions of Salmond on Tort showed a growing breadth of interest outside mere black letter law. Inevitably, however, his tentative steps towards a more contextual approach tended to be overshadowed by the work of P.S. Atiyah and the disciples of the American law and economics schools. At the same time, his contributions, through the 10 editions from 1953 to 1992, were of great significance to academics and practitioners in both United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

As the years progressed his interest in legal history grew. He is known chiefly for his continuation of Attlay's Lives of the Lord Chancellors. In a 1964 volume he brought the history up to 1940 and in his 1987 volume up to 1970. His somewhat gossipy, albeit deferential, style made his books especially popular with bench and Bar.

His volumes probably had less acclaim among the newer generation of legal historians who tended to be more analytical and less deferential. Robert Heuston himself was, in return, somewhat sceptical of the more controversial approach and proudly eschewed reading the more "advanced" social science contributions to the ongoing evolution of legal history.

Heuston was a son of the Protestant Ascendancy. His concern about the "betrayal" in 1922 and the contribution of the Castle Catholics influenced generations of his students. His lectures at Oxford on constitutional law, borne out of his Irish background, were thought by some to verge on the iconoclastic. This was particularly true for their views on fundamental law - views which, one might add, would now find at least some favour with a Laws or a Woolf.

His reputation extended through the common law world. A member of the Law Reform Committees in both England and Ireland, he had been Visiting Professor at the Universities of Melbourne and British Columbia as well as the Australian National University. His work has now been cited in most common law jurisdictions.

He married Bridget Bolland, widow of Neville Ward-Perkins, his economics colleague at Pembroke, in 1962, and became a successful father to her four children. His wife's illnesses, at their retirement home at Navan, north of Dublin, were a great sadness to him and kept him away from the legal institutions he loved so much. He was proud of being both a Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn and King's Inns, Dublin, and deeply touched by being a made a QC last spring. It was a fitting tribute to a man who has done so much for his profession - and his friends.

Robert Stevens

Robert Francis Vere Heuston, legal scholar: born Dublin 17 November 1923; called to the Bar, King's Inns 1947, Gray's Inn 1951; Fellow, Pembroke College, Oxford 1947-65 (Honorary Fellow 1982), Dean 1951-57, Pro-Proctor 1953; Professor of Law, Southampton University 1965-70; member, Law Reform Committee (England) 1968-70, (Ireland) 1975-81; Regius Professor of Laws, Trinity College Dublin 1970-83; Arthur Goodhart Professor of Legal Science and Fellow, Jesus College, Cambridge 1986-87; honorary QC 1995; publications include Salmond and Heuston on Torts (as editor), 11th edition 1953 to 20th edition 1992, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, vol i 1885-1940 1964, vol ii 1940-70 1987; married 1962 Bridget Ward-Perkins (nee Bolland); died Navan, Ireland 21 December 1995.

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 People

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

HR Manager (standalone) - London

Up to £40,000: Ashdown Group: Standalone HR Manager role for an SME business b...

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?