Moran, Frances Elizabeth (1893–1977), university teacher and lawyer, was born on 6 December 1893, younger daughter and fifth among seven children of James Moran and Elizabeth Moran (née Faulkner). Her father was a prominent catholic businessman, proprietor of Moran's Hotel, 71–3 Lr Gardiner St., Dublin, and sometime chairman of the Dublin Port and Docks Board and the British & Irish Steamship Company. He was director of recruiting for the Dublin area in 1915, and the family would probably have been regarded as ‘Castle catholics’. Later he was a member of the senate of the Irish Free State, 1922–34. She was educated at the Dominican College, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, and TCD, where she graduated as senior moderator in modern languages (French and English) (1915), LLB (1918), and LLD (by examination) (1919). She was called to the bar in 1924 and became the second woman member of the Law Library (the first being Averil Deverell (qv), who had been called in 1921 in the first admission of women to the bar in Ireland or Great Britain). She took silk in 1941, being the first woman to do so.
By reason of her comfortable family circumstances, Moran was not obliged to earn her living at the bar. Indeed, she appears scarcely ever to have appeared in court, and her rare attendances at the Law Library (of which she kept her membership until 1973) would indicate that her advisory and conveyancing practice was slight. Rather, it was as a law teacher in TCD and King's Inns, Dublin, that she made a marked impression on several generations of future lawyers. Her first appointment was as Reid professor of penal legislation, constitutional and criminal law, and the law of evidence, in TCD (1925). In accordance with the terms of the trust under which it had been established, this appointment was for a non-renewable term of five years. In 1930 she was appointed lecturer in law, and in 1934 professor of laws until 1944, when she became regius professor of laws, a post she held until her retirement in 1963. All of these appointments were part-time, like almost all the positions in the two small university law schools in Dublin at the time. In addition she was professor of equity, pleading, and practice in King's Inns, 1932–68, also part-time. Thus, during four decades a large proportion of the Irish legal profession experienced the considerable force of her personality.
Fran Moran (only students referred to her as ‘Fanny’) considered herself a teacher, not a scholar. Although in her lectures – dictated, as The Times's obituary accurately put it, at paralysing speed – she kept up to date with such changes as occurred in her fields of law (and those were not frequent or particularly far-reaching in her time), her approach was purely practical, and she did not suggest, or engage in, research. Despite the then almost total absence of modern Irish legal textbooks, she never published anything on her subjects (real property, equity, and torts), and she appears to have written only one article for a law journal, ‘The migration of the common law: the Republic of Ireland’, Law Quarterly Review, lxxvi (1960), 69–73. Attendance at her lectures was therefore vital, quite apart from the fact that it was compulsory in both the institutions where she taught. Tutorials were unknown. Her students saw this slight, immaculately groomed woman as formidable, though not oppressive, requiring high standards of deportment, dress, punctuality, and language. When she asked questions of the students (she did not encourage questions from them) she expected precise and articulate answers: ‘savagely accurate, ferociously thorough’ was her frequently stated requirement, and woe betide the student whose explanation took a sloppy form such as ‘a fee simple is when a man’. She was interested in those she taught and inspired affection in many of them. Her loyalty to her college was never in doubt, and some students from the UCD law school who attended her King's Inns lectures claimed to detect an occasional desire to demonstrate that the basic legal training which they had received was inferior to that of their TCD colleagues (who had been taught by her).
After the second world war she travelled to Nuremberg to witness the international war crimes trials of the Nazi leaders; she later said that ‘they looked so ordinary, like men who had sat up all night in a third-class railway carriage’ (quoted in Heuston, 6).
Among her academic colleagues she was popular because of her friendly and gregarious disposition. A history of TCD speaks of her ‘mixture of progressive feminism and strong conservatism in the fields of politics, morality and social behaviour’ (McDowell & Webb). Her feminism was never shrill; she preferred to lead by example. She was president of the Dublin University Women Graduates Association (1950–52) and of the Irish Federation of University Women (1949–51). In 1950 she was elected president of the International Federation of University Women (1950–53). Moran was elected an honorary fellow of TCD in 1963 and an honorary bencher of King's Inns in 1969 – the first woman bencher, as she had been the first woman professor in TCD and the first woman member of the board of the college when she was elected as professorial representative (1958–62). She was awarded an honorary LLD by QUB in 1957. Moran, who was unmarried, died on 7 October 1977 at her residence, St James's, Howth Road, Clontarf, where she had lived all her life, and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery. She bequeathed three-fifths of the residue of her not inconsiderable estate to the TCD Trust for the benefit of legal education in the college. A portrait of her is in the common room, TCD.