Cole, John Sydney Richard (1907–89), lawyer, was born 24 January 1907 in Belfast, the only son of R. L. Cole (qv), methodist minister, and Selina McKell Cole (née Kelly), who died at the time of his birth. He was educated at Cork Grammar School and the Methodist College, Belfast (1919–25), before matriculating for TCD (1925) and graduating BA (1929), winning several prizes including the vice-chancellor's medal in Latin and the William Roberts prize (1927), a Mullins classical exhibition, medals in oratory and from the Choral Society, and a first-class moderatorship in classics with gold medal (1929).
He entered the King's Inns, Dublin, and was called in 1935 to the Irish bar. Employed by the Colonial Office, he lectured (1930–36) at the Royal College, Mauritius, and was subsequently appointed education officer (1936–40) and crown counsel (1940–46) in Nigeria. He then served as attorney general (1946–51) in the Bahamas and in the Somaliland Protectorate (Somalia) (1951–6), and as attorney general and minister for legal affairs (1956–61) in Tanganyika (Tanzania).
On his retirement in 1961, he began a second career as an academic lawyer: after serving as a legal draughtsman to the government of the Republic of Sudan (1962–5), he was appointed Reid professor of penal legislation (1965–6) and senior lecturer in the law school (1966–77) at TCD, and was hon. secretary (1966–81) of the TCD Association. He published (jointly with W. N. Denison) Tanganyika: the development of its laws and constitution (1964), compiled a Chronological table of statutes and index to Sudan laws (Khartoum, 1964), and wrote Irish cases on the law of evidence (1972; 2nd ed. 1979) and Irish cases on criminal law (1975).
He enjoyed family life, music, swimming, and walking, and radiated a sense of calm. He lived at 2 Rus in Urbe, Glenageary, Co. Dublin; died 15 August 1989 in the Kylemore Clinic, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin; and was cremated. He married first (1931) Doreen Mathews (d. 1966); they had a son and a daughter. In 1968 he married Mrs Deirdre Gallet who already had two daughters.