Richard Best LJ (1869 - 1939):
The younger son of Robert Best of Richhill, County Armagh, and Annie Leamon, Best was educated in Dundalk and then at Trinity College, Dublin where he had an outstanding undergraduate career, being a scholar and gold medallist in mathematics as well as in ethics and logic, graduating as a Senior Moderator (first class honours) in mathematics, logic and ethics.
He was called to the Irish Bar in 1895 and joined the North East Circuit, establishing a large practice and becoming a KC in 1912, and a bencher of King’s Inns in 1918. An active Unionist and member of the Orange Order, he unsuccessfully contested South Armagh in 1909. When the elections were held for the new Northern Ireland Parliament in May 1921 he was returned as the Unionist MP for Mid Armagh and was immediately appointed as the first Attorney General for Northern Ireland by Sir James Craig, Prime Minister.
Perhaps his most notable achievement as Attorney General was to persuade the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1924 that the Imperial government at Westminster could not resort to the royal prerogative to appoint a Northern Ireland Commissioner to the Irish Boundary Commission when the Northern Ireland government refused to do so. As a result fresh legislation had to be enacted at both Westminster and Dublin to enable a third member of the Commission to be appointed.
Best served as Attorney General until 5 November 1925, when he was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, filling the vacancy created by the appointment of Sir William Moore as Lord Chief Justice, and serving until his death in February 1939.
Off the bench Best was keenly interested in both boxing and cricket, serving as president of the Northern Cricket Union and the Irish Cricket Union. A prominent Church of Ireland layman, he served as Chancellor of the dioceses of Armagh and Clogher, as a member of the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Down and Dromore, serving on several occasions as the assessor of the Church of Ireland General Synod, and of the synod of the Diocese of Connor, Down and Dromore.
He was survived by his widow, the daughter of Colonel Bevington, 1st Mayor of Bermondsey, and by his son, a member of the English Bar.
|Born:||11 December 1869|
|Died:||23 February 1939|
Kenneth Ferguson (ed): Kings Inns Barristers 1868-2004; AR Hart: A history of the Bar and Inn of Court of Northern Ireland; John F Harbinson: The Ulster Unionist Party 1882-1973 its development and organisation: St John Ervine: Craigavon Ulsterman; GJ Hand (ed) Report of the Irish Boundary Commission 1925; ILT & SJ lxxiii (1939); Belfast News Letter, 24 February 1939
© 2023 Ulster History Circle