Tributes paid to West Cork legal legend Edward O'Driscoll
BY LEO McMAHON
BANDON Courthouse was packed at the last sitting before Christmas where tributes were paid to ‘living legend’ Edward O’Driscoll on the occasion of his retirement after 65 years as a solicitor.
Members of the legal profession, family and friends from near and far were in attendance at the conclusion of the court which, said Judge Con O’Leary, was a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the enormous contribution Edward had made to the legal scene and life in West Cork. He then invited Edward to join him on the bench.
President of the West Cork Bar Association (WCBA), Colette McCarthy, who stated that Edward was almost 30 years a solicitor before she was even born, recalled as a trainee going around to courts with her senior Helen Collins and experiencing seeing Edward as a formidable advocate, which was impressive.
Along with the other speakers, she wished Edward and his wife Kathleen a happy and healthy retirement and on behalf of the WCBA, presented him with a framed 1865 Sam Lewis Topographical Dictionary map of Cork and Kerry, an area he served in for many decades in his legal career.
Jim Brooks, Clonakilty, who has become the longest-serving solicitor in West Cork (42 years), recalled when sent by his senior Liam Collins to Bandon Court, being in awe of how Edward thoroughly prepared his cases with note after note. He was very much at home in the District Court, where his skills of advocacy and forensic ability were unequalled.
‘I always remember sitting with clients who would ask me who was against us and when I would say Mr O’Driscoll, their jaws would drop,’ said Jim, who went on to say that for Edward, the client was always number one and got the best value for money.
State solicitor Malachy Boohig concurred, adding: ‘Edward, you have been a fantastic advocate in the District Court, a great friend, a shining light to everyone in the West Cork Bar and a person for whom the client was the most important of all.’
Looking back, Malachy said he enjoyed the banter with him over battles in court but not so much the phone call he might get in advance of a case, in which Edward, acting for a defendant and supplied with the statements, would say ‘Boohig I have ya and I’ll see you in court!’
Maeve O’Driscoll said only she and her brother PJ had the unique perspective of being able to speak about Edward as a son and daughter, apprentice, employee, partner and more recently his employer.
Only they had gone the full journey and recalled, as young as ten, accompanying him on engineering inspections. He instilled the importance, when the phone rang, of getting the message right and being the person in court who knew the most about the case. In summary, it was ‘distilled wisdom’ they received from their father and they also acknowledged the role of his ‘late and great’ secretary for 48 years, Nellie Crowley.
E was for Edward but also for enthusiasm, a man generous with his time, advice and know-how who built up a large practice and on his last day in court, was in the same spot where his father had been from 1899 to 1952, making a combined total of 114 years loyal service to the legal profession. Asked why he retired, her theory, she quipped, was that if Pope Benedict (born the same year) earlier this year could have resigned, perhaps Edward thought ‘if it’s good enough for a pope….!’
‘It’s an honour to be your child, it was a challenge to be your apprentice, a privilege to be your partner and employer and I really think the saying “ni bheidh a leitheid ann aris” is appropriate.’ She concluded with his own words, ‘God bless you, good luck’.
A tribute was paid on behalf of An Garda Siochana by Inspector Gerry Lacey, who said he was aware of his formidable skills and very high standards but also the excellent level of co-operation the gardaí got from the office of PJ O’Driscoll’s, Bandon.
On behalf of the District Court Clerks Association, Edmond Burns said he also wished to acknowledge the great contribution Edward had made to the legal profession. He described him as a man blessed with many talents – renowned for his oratory, he was always respectful and had left a wonderful legacy for solicitors to follow.
‘You really are a legend’, said president of the Southern Law Association, Brendan Cunningham, who recalled when as an apprentice to Jim Donegan, the latter sending him to West Cork to watch Edward in contested cases so as to learn from him and his professionalism.
Judge O’Leary said Edward’s objectives were being better than others in the profession and to be better than he did it before. He always brought a fresh mind to every issue, loved the challenge and the advocacy and although the result did matter, for him, rather like foxhunting, the chase was as good as the kill. He added that in the case of Edward, E also stood for entertaining.
The judge paid tribute to Edward for outstanding service to the WCBA, 25 years as its president, in which he was generous with his knowledge and experience but also set a standard in West Cork which required other practitioners to shape up and be better and for that they should all be grateful.
Returning thanks, Edward O’Driscoll said he was humbled by the compliments paid and was very grateful for being granted a long life.
He and his brother Pat were the only apprentices under his father PJ during his (Edward’s) time, but was very pleased that 43 apprentices went through the office in Bandon.
He recalled his early legal career, in which it wasn’t necessary for him to sit the Leaving Certificate and the very high standards set by his father. He spoke of the importance of having ready reference to books such as Justice of the Peace, the An Garda Siochana Guide and The Farmer’s Handbook.
Noting Judge O’Leary was from Bantry, Edward regaled all present recalling colourful cases from its courthouse, went on to speak of his tremendous regard for solicitor Liam Collins and recalled attending sittings in Ballineen, Drimoelague, Rosscarbery, Half Way and other venues which are no more.
Many changes had occurred and it was important to stay up to date but he remained a stickler about being an accurate finisher and leaving nothing outstanding and although at times he was difficult, he always tried to do his best, quipping that it was when he was at his most sweet with a witness that he was at his most dangerous.
‘I am thankful above all, to the Lord himself, for having spared me my health and ability for so long, that I have been spared my thinking and reasoning and that I have been completely blessed with the greatest good fortune anyone could have, my wife for 57 years, Kathleen,’ said 86-years-young Edward, who received a standing ovation. Refreshments followed at the Brogan Inn.
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