Born in Wavertree, Lancashire the son of a Baptist minister Augustine Birrell initially trained for the law. He was Liberal MP for West Fife (1889-1900), with Asquith representing the next door seat, and for Bristol North (1906-1918). He was President of the Board of Education under Campbell-Bannerman, drafting an Education Bill to address nonconformist grievances which was destroyed in the Lords. Later he was Asquith’s Secretary for Ireland (holding the office for longer than anyone else). His early successful tenure of the post was however blighted by the Easter Rising of 1916 and he resigned in May the same year never to play a central part in politics again. Birrell had a second distinguished career as an author and his collections of essays, particularly Obiter Dicta, achieved considerable success. He died in November 1933 aged 83.