Development & Alumni Relations Office 

Dr J Noel Hamilton (died on 19 October 2017, aged 84)

(Obituary provided by Noel’s wife, Mary)


Noel had a distinguished career at Queen’s University Belfast.

A celebrated Celtic scholar, he was born in Derry City in 1933. He won a scholarship to St Columb’s College in his home city and in 1952 went to Queen’s University to study Mathematics and French.

Sadly, in 1954 he suffered a stroke and for a while had to abandon his studies to recuperate. When he returned to Queen’s, he switched to Celtic Studies and Mathematics.

He was awarded a Master’s degree in 1966 and in 1968 obtained his PhD. In the same year he was appointed to a lectureship in the Celtic Department. He taught Old Irish, Middle Irish, Breton and Welsh. In 1976 he was promoted to Reader.

Dr Hamilton’s research interests were in the interpretation of Old Irish and Breton manuscripts. To that end he spent some time at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies translating into English a fragment of La Création, a Breton mystery play. He also spent a year teaching and researching at the University of Brest.

Noel had a special interest in the spoken language of Tory Island as well as in its music. The language and music of the Scottish islands also attracted his attention. His research papers on the speech and music of these areas were published in 1973. He was a tireless contributor to the academic journals throughout his career.

In retirement Dr Hamilton enjoyed listening to classical music, travel and playing bridge.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and his extended family and a wide circle of friends.

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