Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce

Blue Plaque for James Viscount Bryce
Unveiling the plaque to James Viscount Bryce at 13 Chichester Street, Belfast on Friday 10 May 2013

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Classical Scholar, Educationalist and Writer - 15 June 2012

Short Biography
Samuel Dill was born on 26 March 1844 at Hillsborough, Co. Down, the eldest son of the Revd. Samuel Marcus Dill DD, Presbyterian minister of Hillsborough.

Dill was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and the Queen's College Belfast, where he took his degree in arts in 1864. In Lincoln College, Oxford, he obtained firsts in classical moderations (1867) and in literae humaniores (1869). In 1869 he was elected fellow and tutor of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Later he became librarian and dean of the college, and was made an honorary fellow in 1903. In 1877 he was appointed High Master of Manchester Grammar School. During his time there the school was reorganised; new buildings were erected and school societies developed. His liberal conception of education is illustrated by his development of the teaching of modern subjects, and by the connection that he established between the school and working boys' clubs. He attached particular importance to developing the corporate life of the school outside the classroom.

The Plaque
In 1890 Dill returned to the Queen's College as professor of Greek. As a member of the Belfast University Commission, he took a large share in transforming the college into a university in 1909. He was chairman of the viceregal committee of inquiry into primary education (1913-14). He influenced Irish education by his work as a member, and later as chairman, of the intermediate Board of Education. He received a knighthood from the Liberal government in 1909 for his services to education. In 1898 Dill published Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, which was followed in 1904 by Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius. His Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age was edited and published posthumously in 1926 by his son-in-law, the Revd C. B. Armstrong. These books are less histories of a period than studies of the life of societies in dissolution or in spiritual crisis or decay, and reveal his moral and religious sympathies.

In 1924 Dill received the honorary degrees of LittD from the University of Dublin, and of LLD from Edinburgh and St Andrews.

Dill died at Montpelier, Malone Road, Belfast, on 26 May of that year

The plaque unveiling - 15 June 2012
An unseasonable day in the middle of June brought heavy rain to an otherwise pleasant and convivial occasion at the Headquarters of the Ulster Teachers' Union when the plaque dedicated to Sir Samuel Dill was unveiled before an audience of over fifty people.

Diane Nugent unveils the plaque
Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle said that Samuel Dill was an exceptional example of a pioneer and innovator in education, and the Ulster History Circle was delighted to be honouring his achievements with this blue plaque. During his lifetime his brilliance was recognised by the many accolades he received, and in this new century as an educationalist sine pari he is venerated once more. The Circle would especially like to thank the Ulster Teachers' Union and the Heritage Lottery Fund for generously supporting this plaque.

Diane Nugent, President of the Ulster Teachers' Union, said that the union was extremely proud to have this building recognised by the Ulster History Circle, and it has given Blue Circle status to the union's headquarters. She applauded Professor Evans' insight and wealth of historical knowledge about the great Sir Samuel Dill and the time he spent here. Sir Samuel Dill was a real pioneer and innovator in education and she recognised the many accolades that he gained for his work as a Professor of Greek in Queens University, Belfast. It was gratifying to learn about the building's legacy and for the union it was significant that the work carried out here continues to initiate changes. The union would endeavour to follow Sir Samuel Dill's example and create a legacy of its own. She thanked the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the event and all the neighbours, guests, colleagues from INTO and others for sharing in it.

With Sir Samuel's portrait
Mark Glover, member of the The Heritage Lottery Fund Northern said that it was a pleasure to once more join the Ulster History Circle in the unveiling of another Blue Plaque from the Celebrating Achievers Project. As an alumni of Queen's University Belfast it is also wonderful to learn something more about his own academic heritage. He said that the Heritage Lottery Fund was the UK's leading advocate for the value of heritage to modern life. HLF sustains and transforms our heritage through innovative investment in projects with a lasting impact on people and places. The Fund was delighted to support the Ulster History Circle in raising awareness of local achievers.

Professor Williams
Professor Alun Evans said that he had always been aware that Sir Samuel had lived next door and when the Ulster History Circle in 2005 erected a blue plaque there to his father, E Estyn Evans, he had suggested to Avril Hall-Callaghan that a blue plaque to Sir Samuel might be appropriate. He regretted that Sir Samuel's great grandson, Professor William Farley, of Heidleburg, was unable to attend.

Professor Frederick Williams,the last Professor of Greek at QUB before the Department was closed down, thanked the Ulster History Circle and the Ulster Teachers' Union for giving him the opportunity to say a few words about Sir Samuel Dill. He chronicled the career and achievements of "an outstanding Ulsterman"; First class honours at Oxford in both parts of the "legendarily formidable course Literae Humaniores, a uniquely wide-ranging and uniquely demanding amalgam of Greek and Latin languages and literature, ancient history, and philosophy both ancient and modern"; Fellowship at Corpus Christi College; eleven years as High Master in Manchester Grammar School; thirty-three years as Professor of Greek at Queen's College Belfast (later QUB); his three formidible and learned publications (still in print today)

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