Ernest Henry Alton

1942 – 1952 (c. 1873-1952)

Ernest Henry AltonBorn in County Westmeath, the son of a bank official, Ernest Henry Alton graduated from Trinity College in 1896 with honours in classics and philosophy.1 Widely recognized as an authority on Ovid, in 1905 he was elected Fellow, and held the Chair of Latin from 1921 to 1942, when he was appointed Provost. He represented the University, first in the Dáil and later in the Senate, from 1921 to 1943, and his bonhomie won him friends in circles that had previously been hostile to the College.  For the first three years of his tenure, the war shackled all progress and then a serious illness put him out of action for six months in the summer of 1946 and sapped his ability to make major initiatives.2 The most significant event of his provostship was the introduction of regular state support for the College effective, first paid in the year 1947/8.3 Up to this point Trinity had been regarded by the civil service as a private institution and the Board had been reluctant to approach the government for assistance. This external reconciliation opened the way for Trinity to move towards full integration in the country’s system of higher education.

Painting Details

By Leo Whelan
Oil on canvas

  1. Anne Crookshank and David Webb, Paintings and Sculptures in Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, 1990), p. 12.
  2. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992), p.144.
  3. J.V. Luce, Trinity College Dublin, The First 400 Years (Dublin, 1992), p. 146.