Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

Bill Maguire (1932 - 2011):
Historian and museum keeper

William Alexander Maguire, known widely as Bill, was equally distinguished in each branch of his tripartite career – as well as being a museum keeper and historian, he also taught history - all of which was spent in Ulster, mostly in Belfast. 

Bill Maguire was in fact born south of the border (though not far) in Ballina, County Mayo, where his father, Rev Reginald Maguirewas a Methodist minister. The family also lived for a time in Ulster, in Donegal, as well as various locations in County Fermanagh. His mother, Sarah Lambert, was from Coolrakelly, Tempo, County Fermanagh. He boarded at Methodist College, Belfast and won a scholarship to the university of St Andrews, Scotland, where he graduated MA (in Scotland this a primary degree, though it takes four years, not three). His was a double honours degree; his subjects were Medieval History and English. 

He returned to Ulster where his first post was as a teacher at Friends’ School, Lisburn, County Antrim. He followed this with five years at another well-known grammar school, Belfast Royal Academy where he moved in 1964 to become Head of History, and in 1969 he was appointed Headmaster of Regent House School in Newtownards, County Down. All this time he was working on his PhD on the Downshire landed estates. He began this degree at Queen’s University, Belfast, and completed it at Exeter College, Oxford, for which he had a schoolteacher’s fellowship. He published this thesis as a book in 1972; meanwhile he was engaged in studies on other landed families such as the Maguires of Tempo, and the Chichesters of Belfast. Bill’s work in this area was regarded as seminal. 

In 1979 he left Regent House and the schoolteaching profession to join the Ulster Museum in Belfast as Keeper of Local History, latterly Head of the Division of Human History. Besides his thorough general work building up local and historical material at the Museum he himself curated a number of exhibitions including “Kings in Conflict”, referring to the events of 1690; especially the Battle of the Boyne. This exhibition was opened in 1990 to mark the tercentenary of the battle. To mark the bicentenary of the events of 1798, the great rebellion of the United Irishman, he curated “Up in arms!”. 

Aside from his interest and expertise in the history of Belfast generally, he was especially interested in the history of photography in Belfast and Uls.ter. He retired from the Ulster Museum in 1997, of which he acted for a time Deputy Director. 

Bill Maguire was not only highly regarded for his work; he was also a popular gentleman, tall, dignified, warm, humorous. He could be found at more social gatherings of like-minded individuals. He was a family man, who had a son and a daughter with his wife Joan, who also worked in an academic environment, in fact not far from the Ulster Museum, as she occupied a post for many years in the highly reputed publications department of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University, until this successful publishing arm was (for some) somewhat peremptorily and mysteriously closed in the early 2000s. 

His publications included: Living like a lord. the Second Marquess of Donegall, 1769-1844 (first published 1984 by Appletree Press, and republished in 2002 by the Ulster Historical Foundation); A century in focus: photography and photographers in the North of Ireland, 1839-1939 (Blackstaff Press/Ulster Museum, 2000); Caught in time: the photographs of Alexander Hogg of Belfast, 1870-1939 (Friar’s Bush Press, 1986); Letters of a great Irish landlord: a selection from the estate correspondence of the third Marquess of Downshire, 1809-45 (Belfast, HMSO 1974); The Downshire estates in Ireland, 1801-1845: the management of Irish landed estates in the early nineteenth century (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972 – this was based on his doctoral thesis). The catalogues of each of the exhibitions were also published separately; He also published as co-author and co-editor, as well as contributing to scholarly publications. 

Born: 22 April 1932
Died: 10 January 2011
Richard Froggatt

Obituaries: Irish Times, Impartial Reporter; (for publications list); private information; personal knowledge