When you hear the name Arthur Cox it’s most likely that the internationally renowned law firm is the first thing that springs to mind. But the man, Arthur Cox, was not only one of the founders of this law firm he was also a politican, an artist and a priest.
Arthur was born in Dublin in 1891 to Michael Francis and Elizabeth Mary Cox. Michael was one of Dublin’s leading medical practitioners having studied medicine at the Catholic University of Ireland (now UCD). Michael was a proud nationalist and a supporter of the Irish language. He counted John Redmond, John Dillon and Charles Stewart Parnell amongst his friends. Housed in UCD Archives are the papers of the Cox Family. This collection consists of correspondence between Michael and John Dillon, material relating to Arthur’s life, his sketch books and a substantial number of photographs ranging from family holiday snaps to formal studio portraits.
The close relationship between the Cox and Dillon families can be seen in a letter from John Dillon’s wife, Elizabeth, to Michael requesting him to place pressure on John to take a rest from political activity for the good of his health believing…
‘I cannot see that the shortening of his life could be other than a misfortune to the very cause he lives to serve.’
Arthur followed in his father’s footsteps by studying at UCD and graduated from the law department in 1913. Arthur qualified as a solicitor in 1915 and established his law firm in 1920. During his studies Arthur had become friends with people who would later be important players on the Irish political stage: Kevin O’Higgins, Patrick Hogan, Patrick McGilligan and John A. Costello.
The birth of the Irish Free State created many opportunities for work and as a friend and trusted advisor to the State’s founders, Arthur Cox’s influence in shaping industrial policy over the next three decades was immense. He opined on many landmark documents such as the Treaty and is widely acknowledged as the architect of The Companies Act (as it then was) in 1963. Although an intensely private individual, Arthur Cox ventured somewhat reluctantly into public life during the 1950s. He served as President of the Incorporated Law Society 1951/52 and was nominated by the Taoiseach to the Senate in 1954, where he sat for three years.
In 1940 Arthur married Brigid O’Higgins, widow of his friend Kevin O’Higgins, who was assassinated in 1927. They had 21 years of married life together but it came to an end when Brigid died in 1961. Arthur’s thoughts turned swiftly towards becoming a priest and after two years in Milltown Park he was ordained in 1963. The following year he left Ireland to become a missionary in Northern Rhodesia, now modern Zambia. But in June 1965 Arthur was involved in a fatal car crash and subsequently died.
The papers of the Cox family help to show the individual that was Arthur Cox. It is true that he was a solicitor and founded a hugely successfull law firm. But Arthur Cox was certainly more than just a name.
- This post was researched and written by Meadhbh Murphy, Archivist, UCD Archives.