John Victor Luce
Classicist Author / Orator / Sportsman
This Professor led a very accomplished lifestyle plus he became a world authority on Classical Greece.
Born in Dublin on 21st May 1920, John Victor Luce was one of three children of Arthur Aston and Lilian (nee Thompson). [i] He was nephew of Gordon Hannington Luce, the noted scholar of Burmese and Asian History and Bloomsbury group member, first cousin of Rex Warner, classicist and author of novels such as the Airodrome. [ii]
He learnt Greek from his father when he was aged five years old. Luce studied at Baymount School, Dublin plus at Cheltemam College. He entered Trinity College Dublin during 1938 to read Classics plus Philosophy. He was elected a Scholar during his first year which was a magnificent distinction; Luce took a double moderatorship in classics and philosophy, he was awarded gold medals in both subjects. When he had completed three years as a Junior Lecturer at Trinity College he became a Research Student at Oxford, U. K. Luce followed his bachelor’s degree in 1942 with a masters during 1945. [iii]
J. V. Luce was an accomplished sportsman. He captained the Trinity College Hockey team, Squash Rackets, Cricket Clubs plus played for the Phoenix cricket club first X1. He won six caps with Ireland’s hockey team. He was also selected to play for Oxford in the annual colours match against Cambridge. He was a keen Angler. [iv] He was a committed chess player with Rathmines Chess Club plus participated in Leinster Leagues. [v]
Luce acted as Chairman of Trinity Week Committees, was elected Secretary of Trinity Trusts. He was Chairman of Dublin University Central Athletic Club. He was a visiting Professor to United States and African Universities. Luce was a Guest Lecturer on Swan Hellenic Cruises. [vi]
He was an angler who spent many enjoyable trips on Westport Rivers and Bay. [vii]
From 1946 to 1948 he lectured in Greek at Glasgow University. J. V. Luce was the 62nd Vice Provost of Trinity College Dublin from 1987 to 1989; a position held by his father Arthur A. Luce from 1946 to 1952. He was elected a Fellow of Trinity College during 1948 he was appointed Reader in classics in 1963. He served as Tutor also Senior Tutor until 1971 when he was appointed assistant Professor of classics. He was Senior Dean from 1077 to 1985 then Vice – Provost from 1987 to 1989. Luce also acted as the public Orator at Trinity from 1972 to 2005. [viii]
He was appointed Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Oratory during 1984. The same rhetorical principle informed his Latin; according to reviews his public orations were likened to the style of Pliny the Elder. [ix] Luce was elected Chairman of DUCAS during 1956 for two decades. He was instrumental in ensuring that no residences were built at College Park in 1971. During 1957 he secured offices in House 27 for DUCAC and the Knights of the Campanile. (Annual Report, page 23) [x] Luce received the Runciman award for ‘Celebrating Homer’s Landscapes’ in 1998. He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy during 1973, became an honorary member of Royal Dublin Society in 1992. As a Governor of the High School Dublin in 1995 he was elected President of the Classical Association of Ireland, three years later was co – opted as Patron of the Irish Institute for Classical Studies. [xi]
Luce Hall at Trinity College was dedicated on April 21st 1982 to mark the contributions of both J. V. and his father A. A. Luce had made to Sport at the college. A Plaque inside the building reads; The Luce Hall honouring A. A. Luce and J. V. Luce Senior Fellows and Sportsmen. (Annual Report, page 23) [xii]
Luce contributed to a wide range of academic journals. He wrote with an elegant dignified simplicity yet its forcefulness, effectiveness plus structural clarity was certainly informed by the best principles of Classical rhetoric. His first book ‘The End of Atlantis’ shed new light on the old legend yet remains the best discussion on the subject while his last book was a beautifully written classical account entitled ‘Celebrating Homer’s Landscape.’ Other publications included; ‘The Quest for Ulysses’ in 1974, ‘Homer and the Heroic Age’ during 1975 plus ‘An Introduction to Greek Philosophy’ during 1992. [xiii] He was the author of the very readable ‘Trinity College Dublin; The First 400 Years’ in 1991. [xiv]
J. V. Luce married Lyndall Miles (whose maternal grandparents were born in Co Mayo) during 1948; she was Scottish plus had graduated from St. Andrew’s University with a Degree in History. She was a Lecturer in Scottish plus became a pioneer in the work of housing the elderly. They had three daughters. The family lived in Dublin but due to his love of angling they purchased a holiday cottage during 1952 at Killeenacoff, near Westport for 450 pounds. It was basic; without water or electricity. John and Lyndall have recorded the story of their 1950’s experience in an entertaining article on page 94 in the Cathair na Mart Historical Journal, No 25. [xv]
J. V. Luce died aged 90 years in Dublin following a short illness on February 11th 2011. [xvi]
As J. V. Luce has recalled, “polite society was astonished to see a clerical Fellow of Trinity addressing public meetings from the same platform as Connolly and Larkin.” [xvii]
Luce was described as a ‘careful scholar who writes well and argues his case persuasively’ in a Daily Telegraph Review. In the Dining Hall at Trinity College there is a picture of J. V. Luce alongside a portrait of his father at this link; [xviii]
Lyndall Luce penned a letter to the Irish Times, published on September 2nd 2015 re the demolition of Luce Hall. [xix]
Cathair na Mart Historical Journal 2006 – 2007 No. 25 Pages 94 – 102
Cathair na Mart Historical Journal 2012 Page 152 An Appreciation.
[vii] Cathair na Mart Historical Journal 2012 Page 152; An Appreciation.
[xv] Cathair na Mart Historical Journal 2006 – 2007 No. 25 Pages 94 – 102