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William Lowry (1884 - 1949):
Barrister, politician and judge

The third son of Samuel Lowry of White Hill, Limavady, County Londonderry and Margaret J Gibson, William Lowry was one of a talented and successful family, an elder brother was CG Lowry, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at, and a Pro-Chancellor of, Queen’s University, Belfast, and another brother was HC Lowry, FRCS, FRCOG.

Although he was called to the Irish Bar by King’s Inns in 1907 and joined the North East Circuit the same year, it appears that Lowry initially pursued an academic career, returning to Belfast to take an LLB at Queen’s University and later holding the Reid Professorship of Constitutional and Criminal law at Trinity College, Dublin. By 1912 he was one of a number of barristers based in Belfast, although he also practised in Dublin, amongst other things providing coaching for Bar students, one of whom was JC MacDermott, later Lord Justice MacDermott, who recalled him as a born teacher.

In 1921 when the new Northern Ireland judicial system came into existence Lowry continued to practise in Northern Ireland where he built up a large practice, becoming a KC in 1926. Although he appeared in many important civil cases, it was as a criminal lawyer that Lowry was perhaps best known, appearing in nineteen murder trials when such trials were rare.

A member of the Orange Order, Lowry naturally gravitated to politics, and was elected Unionist MP for Londonderry City in 1939. Appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1940, he held that post until 1943 when he was appointed Minister of Home Affairs when the then Sir Basil Brooke became Prime Minister. In November 1944 Lowry was appointed Attorney General, serving until he was appointed a judge of the high court in June 1947 to fill the vacancy created by the promotion of Mr Justice MacDermott as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. However, Lowry’s judicial career was destined to be short-lived because he retired due to ill health in October, 1949 and died two months later aged 65.

Lowry’s wife, the daughter of the Rev Dr Lynd and sister of the writer Robert Lynd, pre-deceased him, and he was survived by his son RLE Lowry who followed his father at the Bar, and later became Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and then a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.


Born: 19 March 1884
Died: 14 December 1949
AR Hart

Kenneth Ferguson (ed): King’s 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; George Hill Smith: The Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland; JC MacDermott: An enriching life; www: ILT&SJ lxxx111 (31 December, 1949), 328-9: Belfast News Letter, 15 December, 1947