Frank Edgar obituary

Susan Hodgett
·2-min read

My father, Frank Edgar, who has died aged 87, was one of Northern Ireland’s most experienced civil servants and made significant contributions to many aspects of life in the province. He was one of a postwar generation that fundamentally believed in the value of public service.

Frank was born in Belfast, the oldest of two sons to Mae (nee McNeice), a hairdresser, and Bob, a mechanic, and won a scholarship to attend Methodist College. An enthusiastic cricketer, sailor and golfer, he once undertook school detention with a fellow pupil, James Ellis (later an actor, and star of Z Cars) for throwing snowballs in the quadrangle.

Frank found his metier in the Northern Ireland civil service. Straight from school, in 1952, he joined the petty sessions service as a temporary relief clerk, rising to become clerk of petty sessions based in Cookstown, County Tyrone, in 1959.

As a petty sessions clerk he provided administrative support to rural courts across Northern Ireland, a job that required him to travel many miles on dreadful roads and to stay in innumerable guest houses. He did so throughout the darkest days of the Troubles before, in 1979, joining the new Northern Ireland courts and tribunals service, where he took on administrative responsibility for lay panels and juvenile courts.

Frank’s long experience of the system culminated in a decade, from 1983 onwards, as deputy director of the Northern Ireland courts and tribunals service, working for the lord chancellor’s office. He contributed to the modern shape of the legal system by developing policy and legislation on children and young people, inquests, child support and domestic proceedings, and legal aid.

For some years he was a member, and later chair, of the executive committee of the NI Civil Service Association, the civil service union. After retirement in 1993 he wrote a procedural handbook for justices of the peace, published by the Law Society, and helped to set up training programmes for juvenile court lay panel members. In 1991 he was recognised for his contribution to public service in Northern Ireland by being appointed CBE.

After many years of involvement in the Round Table, Frank also served as president of his school’s old boys’ association.

In 1959 he married Joan McMaster; she died in 1999. He is survived by his partner, Lorraine Tennant, by the three children from his marriage, Michael, Roger and me, his grandchildren Richard, Sarah, Hayley and Oliver, his great-grandchildren, and Lorraine’s daughters and grandchildren.