We can not hope to do justice to the life of Professor Patricia Birnie as well as some of her closest friends, such as Alan Boyle’s account of her life and work in the Guardian newspaper.
But we can just note that Pat was a hero to many of us involved in the anti-whaling movement. Her courtesy and small stature hid a formidable brain and sharp intelect.
She was approachable and unlike a lot of people who have reached the hight of their academic mountains, she was always willing to coach many of us IWC newbies in the early 1990s through to become at least proficient if not anywhere near as capable as she was.
She was courted by NGOs and Governments alike. Her memory and legal knowledge of the IWC was a massive boone to many an IWC Commissioner, new to their position and unskilled in its intractable processes and protocols. But if you had to argue against her she was razor sharp in her arguments and a formidable opponent. For many of us who have fought each devious attempt to overturn the commercial whaling moratorium she was an ally we were always pleased to have on our side.
In these days when people seem to feint those who chase the TV ratings and the press of celebrity, the real heroes of the anti-whaling movement are hidden to many. When the record books come to be written about the history of the anti-whaling movement, Professor Pat Birnie’s name will be carved front and centre, – when many others will have long been forgotten.
Patricia Winifred Birnie, legal scholar and campaigner, born 17 November 1926; died 7 February 2013