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Sir Robert Lowry, Lord Lowry (1919 - 1999):

Robert Lynd Erskine Lowry was born in Belfast on 30th January 1919. His father was William Lowry, a founding member of the Northern Ireland Bar, Stormont MP for Londonderry 1939-1947, Attorney-General for Northern Ireland 1944-1947 and a judge of the Northern Ireland High Court 1947-1949; the "Lynd" shows his relationship through his mother to Robert Lynd, the Belfast journalist  Lowry was educated at RBAI, where he was Head of the School and won an Exhibition in Classics to Jesus College, Cambridge. He achieved first class honours in his first year, and volunteered that year, 1939, for military service, which was delayed until 1940, when he completed his degree with first class honours and enlisted with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Commissioned in 1941 in the Royal Irish Fusiliers in which he became adjutant of the 6th Battalion, he took part in the North African and Italian campaigns, became Brigade Intelligence Officer of the 38th Irish Infantry Brigade and ended the war with the rank of Major.

Called to the Northern Ireland Bar in 1947, the following year he was junior counsel to the Attorney General of Northern Ireland, became a Queen's Counsel in 1956 and was appointed a High Court judge in 1964 at the unusually early age of 45. During his tenure in this position he heard mostly chancery (civil) cases, but on his appointment as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland in 1971 (when he also became a Northern Ireland Privy Councillor) the Troubles were already engendering many important criminal cases; Lowry was to hand down some highly significant judgments. One of the most significant of these was in the 1978 case of Maxwell, in which the House of Lords, upholding his judgment in the Northern Ireland Criminal Appeal , stated that it was a "sound development of the law" and an example of "good judge-made law in a field where there is no statute to offer guidance". Again, in 1984 his judgment in the case of Gilmour, in which he acquitted 35 defendants, seriously undermined the then rule of evidence which allowed conviction on the basis of evidence obtained by promises of immunity from prosecution for the witness. Also notable was his opposition, after the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, to what many thought would be certain far-reaching changes to aspects of the justice system in Northern Ireland. Lowry rigorously defended the quality of the justice dispensed by the existing system and successfully opposed certain proposed changes.

In 1975-76, as Sir Robert Lowry (having been knighted in 1971), he chaired the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention. In 1979 he was appointed to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, being raised to the peerage as Baron Lowry of Crossgar. In 1988 he was appointed Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, a post he held until 1994.

Juridically, Lowry was a tenacious defender of what he and many others saw as traditional legal values against what were seen as encroachments resulting from the emergency legislation engendered by the situation in Northern Ireland. In addition, he had a reputation, with reserved judgments, of taking his time to deliver them, though they were almost invariably very highly regarded in the profession. Personally, he was a popular colleague and well-respected senior, known for patience, courtesy and helpfulness at all times, and especially in court. Moreover, he was, as Northern Ireland's most senior judge, a target of three assassination attempts. Immediately after one of these, when he was fortunate that gunshots aimed at him had only narrowly missed, he insisted on delivering his planned lecture nevertheless.

Lowry took a keen interest in education, notably with his 21-year Chairmanship of the Board of Governors of Richmond Lodge School (which he had attended as a young boy before it became solely a girls' school), and was a Governor of his old school, RBAI, where in 1996 he was unanimously elected President of the Institution, an office which had not been filled for sixty years. He also served one term as Chairman of the Governing Bodies Association.

A keen sportsman all his life, at school Lowry captained the cricket team and competed for Irish Schools; later he became a member of the MCC. He was a fine golfer, with the low handicap of three; he played for the leading - and winning - Malone Golf Club (Belfast) teams in the 1950s, and was a member of Royal County Down and Royal Portrush Golf Clubs. He was twice Captain of the latter and was its President from 1974-1997. A later sporting interest was show jumping, which he pursued both in Ireland, and abroad as Chairman of the Judicial Committee of the International Equestrian Federation, acting as an international judge at show jumping competitions as late as the last year of his life; he was a member of the Jury of Appeal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

Lord Lowry died in London just short of his 80th birthday.

Born: 30 January 1919
Died: 15 January 1999
Richard Froggatt

Wesley McCann