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Eamonn Hall RIP first anniversary
Eamonn Hall ALL PICS: Cian Redmond

05 Nov 2021 / People Print

Eamonn Hall – a first anniversary reflection

Past-president of the Law Society Michael V O’Mahony shares his reflections on the life and career of his friend and colleague, Eamonn Hall, on the first anniversary of his death this November.

This is a personal reflection on the legal career of an extraordinary person, looking back a year since his sad passing in November 2020. Personal though this retrospective may be, one can be confident that many more will also vividly recall Eamonn, who was unforgettable in so many ways.

The range of Eamonn’s CV, although as a list impressive, does not fully exemplify the man behind his unique diversity of interests. In particular, in order to pay due homage to him, one must, with fully declared emotion and bias, start at the end rather than the beginning.

When in January 2020, Eamonn starkly made known to us in the Faculty of Notaries that he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer and had been given no more than four months to live, our shock was profound, particularly as up to then there had been no visible let-up in the levels in his energy and enthusiasm in the fulfilment in his role as the faculty’s director of education.

The shocked impact was the same with other bodies with which he was associated who received the same traumatic news. Within a very short time, the mutual esteem and respect in which Eamonn was held showed itself in the urge to honour him.

For the Faculty of Notaries, it was the bestowing of a fellowship. For the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, it was the rapid publication of a book of essays and appreciations relating to his long-standing pivotal role in its workings.

For the panel of judges for the Irish Law Awards (of which Eamonn had been the inaugural chair), it was the presentation of a lifetime achievement award. For the Law Society, it was the dedication to him of a room in the Green Hall, an event he attended on 18 August 2020 – perhaps his last non-medical outing – and stood and spoke from the podium, fearlessly and eloquently.

In combination, these public gestures of esteem, in effect, provided Eamonn with a living obituary while he was still around to appreciate it – which he did, so gratefully and so humbly.

The inner man

What of the inner man during this inevitable countdown period? His strength of mind and character, and love of life and for his family, challenged him to beat the medical forecast – four months becoming six months and, ultimately, ten months.

Despite the chemo and the life-prolonging treatment he received during those last months, Eamonn had still one last project to complete, perhaps echoing that electoral slogan, ‘a lot done, more to do’.

The Hall family roots are in Donaghmoyne, lying between Carrickmacross and Castleblayney, Co Monaghan. Eamonn, above all, was a stalwart son of Monaghan, his distinctive county accent still detectable, even after all his years living in Dublin. He spoke often of his awareness that his birthplace was near that of poet Patrick Kavanagh and, in more recent times, of comedian and broadcaster Oliver Callan.

Eamonn’s father, Eugene – auctioneer, land surveyor, and former local historian – had, shortly before his death in 1980, written out the history of the extended Hall family since the 1700s, which, however, had never been published.

Over all the years since his father’s death, Eamonn professed in early 2020 that he had always nurtured the ambition and the need to publish what his father had written for the benefit of both present and future generations of the Halls of Donaghmoyne, not least for his own siblings and his own family. He also professed that such a publication might be of wider value, as typifying other families, both in Monaghan and further afield.

Final ambition

Despite his progressively weakening state, this final ambition was consummated by June 2020. The content of this book (some hundred pages – EGH’s only short one!) was as much ‘pure’ Eamonn in its preface, notes and appendices, as it was ‘pure’ Eugene – an epitaph of both. It attributes both parent and son as the authors, with the publisher being nothing less than Hall (books), located at Eamonn’s home address, a promise to himself at last fulfilled.

Eamonn’s interest in history of all shades is not surprising – like father, like son. Sometimes in dialogue with Eamonn on one topic, he would temporarily divert away onto what he perceived was a related historical connection.

One can, with respectful irony, ponder what historical event he would divert to in the course of a discussion with him on an unrelated topic were it occurring on the very date on which he passed away, 21 November 2020 – being the centenary anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’!

To revert back to his genesis as a lawyer and onwards, Eamonn started his working life as a teacher before making the switch to the study of law. He qualified as a solicitor in 1974, and his blossoming interest and focus on so many legally related areas soon followed his in-house employment in Telecom Eireann/Eircom, his Law Society association as a constitutional law examiner and as a member of the Gazette Editorial Board (and in many other ways), his prolonged and critical involvement with the Council of Law Reporting and with the governing Council of the Faculty of Notaries, among so many more involvements.

Myriad subjects

His transition to the writing of books was interspersed over the years with the writing of always erudite articles on myriad subjects. When it came to books, Eamonn never found length a problem! His first book in 1993 was The Electronic Age, the longer title being: Telecommunications in Ireland – the Development and Regulation of the Telephone, Broadcasting and Other Electronic Media. This book, despite the subsequent ongoing advances in technology, is still substantially relevant today in its exposition of regulation of the media.

His joint editorship with Daire Hogan of the 150-year history of the Law Society (1852-2002) is a seminal work, as is his history of official law reporting in Ireland (1866-2006). Eamonn’s long association and friendship with E Rory O’Connor, a fellow notary and writer, culminated in 2018 with their lengthy joint venture, The Notary of Ireland, so useful to all notary members of that profession.

Behind Eamonn throughout his illustrious career as a solicitor, notary, academic, lecturer and writer was another solicitor, by far the most important, his ever-patient and understanding wife, Mary. When one reflects on Eamonn’s never-ending productivity, not least as a writer of massive tomes, one must also think of the perforce countless hours of isolation involved, not only for Eamonn but, even more so in reverse, also for Mary and, as they grew up, their children Alan and Irene.

However, any residue of feelings of loss and regret for the times Eamonn, as husband and father, was locked away in his study should now find solace in the fact of Eamonn’s undeniable and permanent membership of the very exclusive pantheon of Irish lawyers whose achievements will long outlive him.

Dry wit and eloquence

When Eamonn died just one year ago, E Rory O’Connor circulated to Irish notaries, as well as to the UK counterparts among whom Eamonn was equally well known, a memorable obituary. Coming as it did from someone who knew him so well, for so long, Rory’s description of Eamonn as a person encapsulated succinctly how so many of us remember him, and it is appropriate to end this reflection in Rory’s own words:

“Eamonn endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact. His mild manner; his listening ear; his words of comfort – always painstakingly delivered; his dry wit and his eloquence in the spoken and written word never failed to impress and captivate his audience and, indeed, those who shared platforms with him. If Eamonn Hall had a fault, and if it be such, it was pride. Eamonn was a proud person, proud of his achievements in the academic and vocational fields, of his writings and addresses to a myriad of audiences, and of being a notary public but, more than anything else, of his wife Mary and his children, Alan and Irene, and Eamonn Hall was always proud to be considered your friend.”

Eamonn, you will not be forgotten. 

Eamonn G Hall     

Education

St Macartan’s College, Monaghan; UCD (BA); Maynooth (H Dip) Ed; Galway (LLB); TCD (PhD)

Books

  • The Electronic Age (1993)
  • History of the Law Society (1952 – 2002) (joint editorship with Daire Hogan, 2002)
  • The Superior Courts of Law – Official Law Reporting in Ireland (1866 – 2006) (2007)
  • The Notary of Ireland (jointly with E Rory O’Connor, 2018)
  • The Story of an Extended Monaghan Family Since the 1700s (jointly with his father, Eugene J Hall, 2020)

Associations and involvements

  • Chief solicitor – Telecom Eireann/Eircom (1984-2007)
  • Law Society – constitutional law examiner (1981-2006)
  • Gazette Editorial Board (over 25 years)
  • Law Society Council election scrutineer (over 20 years)
  • Faculty of Notaries, director of education
  • Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (1986-2020)
  • Former president and secretary – Medico Legal Society of Ireland
  • Information Society Commission (1997-2000)
  • Society of Advanced Legal Studies UC London
  • Adjunct member, UCD Faculty of Law
  • Council of the Convocation of the NUI
  • Contribution for Ireland to Brook’s Notary (13th and 14th editions)

Read and print a PDF of this article here.

Michael V O’Mahony
Michael V O’Mahony is a past-president of the Law Society of Ireland