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Dublin Civic Trust, Professor Kevin B. Nowlan, Dies Aged 91


It is with deep sadness that the Board of Dublin Civic Trust announces the passing of its President, Professor Kevin. B. Nowlan, who was 91. A tireless and indefatigable campaigner for the protection of Ireland's architectural heritage, he was to the fore in engendering a wider appreciation of historic buildings and sites for over half a century, and remained an active and engaged champion of a number of causes until his passing on Monday morning, 4th February 2013.

Born in November 1921, Professor Nowlan attended Belvedere College as a schoolboy before studying history and political economy in UCD. He graduated to Cambridge University and later spent time in Paris and Germany. He progressed to become Professor of Irish History in UCD, a position he held until his retirement in 1983. A stalwart of the conservation movement in Ireland, he regularly spoke of his republican roots in the face of efforts to preserve what was often perceived to be a 'British' architectural inheritance in Dublin, with his granduncle Séamus Nowlan formerly serving as president of the GAA. He was proud of the multifaceted and layered aspects of Dublin's built heritage - one of the main reasons he became aligned with a host of activist and advocacy groups from the 1960s onwards to preserve the city's architectural and archaeological record from all periods - memorably serving as one of the champions of the Wood Quay campaign.

He served as president of An Taisce, vice-president of the Irish Georgian Society, chairman of the Castletown Foundation, director of the Alfred Beit Foundation, member of the Dublin Civic Group, and president of Dublin Civic Trust, the latter a position he held for twenty-one years since its establishment in 1992.

CEO of Dublin Civic Trust, Geraldine Walsh, described Prof. Nowlan as: "A gentleman who commanded respect, not just through the wisdom of his age, but through the very wisdom of the man. He was consistently dependable and true to form, with a generosity of availability and knowledge, never failing to give you the right direction. He was the person you could always rely on, with his role as president taken with the utmost responsibility - as with all tasks he adopted in life. He had an unwavering belief in what the Trust strived to do for the city: to educate about the value of historic buildings and to lead in active demonstration through their acquisition, preservation and restoration. His service to the Trust from the very outset in 1992 reflected his own raison d'être in life: the recognition of the fabric of Dublin as an extraordinary statement of building typologies from multiple centuries of human settlement. He put his life's energies into the recognition and preservation of this cultural inheritance for future generations, and for this we are immensely privileged in Dublin Civic Trust to have been so closely associated with such a noble spirit and good friend that Kevin B. was to us all."

In a recent interview with The Irish Times on the occasion of his 90th birthday he described the triumphs as well as the failings of the recent boom period in Ireland, commending the introduction of transformative planning legislation in the 1990s that afforded legal protection to Protected Structures, but also noting his worry "about enforcement in Dublin and throughout the country" on account of financial cutbacks. He observed that he was "very unhappy, going through the country, to see the extent to which the landscape was being savaged by developments that seemed to have no relationship to existing villages or towns. And this has contributed to a serious depletion of one of our greatest assets: the Irish countryside."

Until his final days he remained vigorously active, attending cultural events, seminars and conferences, as well as taking trips abroad to England, France and his beloved Germany, where he made use of his fluent German and up-to-date knowledge of current affairs through his regular digestion of German newspapers. His appetite for life, socialising and engaging in the cultural life of Dublin will be deeply missed by all in Dublin Civic Trust, our colleagues in the Irish Georgian Society, and everyone who knew him in his broad circles of friends and acquaintances.

Dublin and her citizens are indebted to your service, Kevin B.

Rest in Peace.

Source: Dublin Civic Trust - Trust President, Professor Kevin B. Nowlan, Dies Aged 91