Sir Richard Livingstone (1880 - 1960):
Sir Richard Livingstone was a distinguished classical scholar and promoter of the liberal arts, who served for a decade (1924-1933) as President and Vice-Chancellor, The Queen’s University of Belfast, during which time he was able both to enhance the University’s standing and reputation as well as improve its financial base.
Richard Winn Livingstone was born in Liverpool, son of Richard John Livingstone, a Church of England clergyman who was Vicar of Aigburth, near (now a southern suburb of Liverpool), and later an honorary canon of Liverpool, whose family was originally from Westport, County Mayo, in the west of Ireland, and his Irish wife, Millicent Julia Allanson-Winn, daughter of Charles Allanson-Winn, third Baron Headley. His educational achievements were exemplary, a scholar of Winchester College, a leading English school, and of New College, Oxford, to which Winchester is linked, where he obtained a first class degree in literae humaniores, (Latin and ancient Greek), also winning the Chancellor's Prize for Latin Verse and the Arnold Modern Historical Essay Prize (a prize requiring no special application, but not necessarily awarded in a given academic year). In 1904 he was appointed fellow and tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he remained until 1924; in 1905 he was also appointed librarian (this career path rather echoes that of Sir Samuel Dill). During these years he also served (1920) on the prime minister’s committee on the classics and was co-editor (1920–22) of the Classical Review; he did though absent himself for one year (1917–18) as an assistant master at Eton College.
In October 1923 Livingstone was appointed as Vice-Chancellor in Belfast in succession to Thomas Hamilton, who had been appointed President of Queen’s College Belfast as far back as 1889 (Queen's University was a successor institution). Livingstone, unlike his predecessors, was neither from Ulster, nor a Presbyterian minister. There is perhaps a certain irony in this, as the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, William Crolly, had recommended, when the establishment of the original Queen’s College Belfast was being considered, that its President be an Englishman, of distinguished literary reputation, and an Episcopalian layman; it thus took Queen’s 78 years to follow this recommendation, and it certainly was feasible after 1908 when this position was filled by a Crown appointment, whereas afterwards it was made by the institution itself.
One of the more significant accomplishments of Livingstone’s tenure did in fact involve religion and arose from a proposal in 1922 that a faculty of theology be established at the University, whose Charter, basically to preserve a secular ethos (or what would quite possibly be described a century later a “shared space”), given the not so harmonious inter-ecclesial attitudes surrounding the establishment of Queen’s University, made no provision for it. Theology teaching (apart specifically from scholastic philosophy) was not excluded from Queen’s as long as it was financed by external sources, but there was a broad consensus in favour of establishing such a faculty, notwithstanding opposition albeit for different reasons form some Roman Catholic, and some Protestant, opinion. Livingstone dealt with a less-than-well-tempered Senate meeting in February 1926 on the matter by suggesting a deferment until April, which, though it did nothing to alter the clear majority in favour of a theology faulty, at least ensured it was debated and discussed in a more pacific and propitious atmosphere. Many details remained to be worked out – for example, where and by whom theology would be taught - but Livingstone had, for those supporters of a theology faculty, helped to break a logjam.
“His decade in Belfast seems a brief period after Hamilton’s monumental tenure of office, but it was a decade of great importance in the history of Queen’s. Livingstone’s ideals of academic life were drawn from the classical humanism of Oxford, and he was perhaps too much inclined to forget that they could not readily be transplanted to Belfast. His achievement at Belfast lay rather in the improvement of public relations rather than in internal administration. He increased the material resources of the university, he strengthened old contacts and formed new ones, and the knighthood conferred upon him was more than a personal distinction, it was a public recognition of the university’s place in the life of the community.”
The sesquicentenary publication by BM Walker and A McCreary did not dissent from this view:
“He achieved considerable success at Queen’s in increasing the funding and in bringing wider public involvement in the university; in particular he persuaded all the main county and borough councils to contribute to the revenue of the university and to participate in the Senate.”
Livingstone was awarded honorary doctorates from ten universities. Non-academic honours included the Norwegian Haakon VIIs frihetskors,; appointment as Commandeur de la Légion d'honneur (France); and he was made a knight commander of the order of King George I of Greece. Queen’s University has a tradition of naming buildings after distinguished leading members of staff including of course Vice-Chancellors; Livingstone Hall, one of the principal buildings of Queen’s Elms [student] Halls of Residence, was named for him. His portrait as Vice-Chancellor, which hangs in the Great Hall of the University, was executed by the eminent Hungarian portraitist, Philip de László. In this respect he was in the most exalted company, as de László's other subjects included Queen Marie of Romania, the Crown Princess of Prussia, the Duchess of Gramont (née Rothschild), and the Duchess of York, later Queen Elizabeth, consort of King George VI of the United Kingdom and later still Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
|Born:||23 January 1880|
|Died:||26 December 1960|
Professor Sir Peter Froggatt
TW Moody & JC Beckett: Queen’s Belfast 1845-1949: The History of a University (London, 1959); Brian Walker & Alf McCreary: Degrees of Excellence: The Story of Queen’s Belfast 1845-1995, (Belfast, Institute of Irish Studies, 1994); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Ambrose Macauley: William Crolly (Dublin, 1994); Patrick de Laszlo, A Brush With Grandeur - Philip Alexius de László (1869-1937)
© 2023 Ulster History Circle