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Eccentric historian leaves work to Trinity

Eccentric historian RB McDowell, who died last year, left all of his literary works to Trinity College, Dublin, the university he was so closely associated with throughout his life.

The late professor left an estate valued at more than €3.2m in England to a range of people, clubs and charities – including a sum to a London-based dining club.

Prof McDowell, who died in August last year, was a well-known academic figure who was famous for his wit and eloquence.

He was most closely associated with Trinity College, where he could regularly be seen scruffily dressed and moving about at great speed when he was a lecturer.

According to details of his will, which has just become publicly available, Prof McDowell left all his published and unpublished works and manuscripts, papers and copyrights related to his work to Trinity College.

Last week a spokesperson for Trinity said they had not yet been formally advised of the bequeathal.

"We are of course deeply honoured by this bequest by an academic of such standing who contributed so significantly to college life," a statement said.

"In the words of the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, who said on the occasion of his funeral: 'He was not just a great Trinity man, but a great scholar and friend – someone who inspired generations with his love of learning and who will continue to inspire us as we remember his life's work in years to come'."

The total value of Prof McDowell's estate, separate from the literary works, comes to €3,269,710 with a number of beneficiaries listed.

Amongst them is Dominic Lieven, a professor of Russian history in the London School of Economics; the London Trust for Trinity College; the Kildare Street and University Club in Dublin; the Linenhall library in Belfast; the Reform Club of Pall Mall in London; and a number of charities.

The Beefsteak Club, a dining club which meets on Irving street in London, is also one of the beneficiaries.

Prof McDowell, who died at the age of 97, was known for his strong unionist views and published a number of works throughout his career.

Born in Belfast in 1913, he attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and won a scholarship to Trinity in 1932 where he developed a reputation as a gifted debater.

After retirement, he lived in London but went back to Trinity regularly and pursued his academic interests with vigour.

A memoir entitled Encounters with a Legend celebrated his life and was followed by a sequel called The Magnificent McDowell; Trinity in the Golden Era. After he reached 90, he returned to the college to live full-time before moving to a nursing home.

Sunday Independent