Derry’s top class busking barrister

John performing one of his lecture hall classics at the award ceremony in Jordanstown.

John performing one of his lecture hall classics at the award ceremony in Jordanstown.

A popular associate lecturer at Magee has been honoured for his unique musical interpretations of law topics.

Derry man John Thompson decided to liven up lecture sessions by bringing along his ukelele and composing songs.

He has now penned two tunes based on the law of negligence and the law of contract. Speaking to the Journal, Mr Thompson said he was delighted with his new accolade, and revealed that he thought at first that his nomination was a wind up.

He is now officially the UU Students Union Innovation In Teaching Lecturer of the Year after being nominated by University of Ulster students, and beating off competition from all four UU campuses though the process.

John said that the idea came to him as he tried to think of more creative ways of instilling knowledge in the local students.

“I thought I could put them to a tune and it ended up we had the whole class singing.

“I would use innovative ways of teaching law, try to bring it into their own lives, make it relevant to them. I would use particular examples that would mean something to students.

“Law is dry and you have to liven it up. This was another method for doing that.”

He added that teaching and learning in general has changed dramatically over recent years. “We are moving away from books and becoming more bookless in general.”

John’s songs have also grown in popularity online with the Youtube postings attracting thousands upon thousands of hits.

And it isn’t just the classroom and online where John has delivered a lyrical performance.

“I ended up not having an acceptance speech for the award and I ended up singing ‘The Law of Contract’, he said.

One of John’s students also helped deliver the song at the Jordanstown ceremony, while many of the other lecturers and students joined John in a celebratory ‘selfie’ afterwards.

But despite his newly honoured musical prowess and also being a member of the Irish Ukuhooley group based in Dublin, John said he is keeping his feet firmly on familiar ground.

“I’m not giving up the day job,” he laughs. “But the ukelele is now one of the fastest growing instruments in the world.

“It’s very forgiving. I always use the phrase ‘playing the ukelele is a bit like throwing the javelin blindfolded- you don’t have to be very good to get a lot of attention.”

Barrister John has been teaching at Magee for the past seven years.

The UU Students’ Union Learning & Teaching Awards were launched earlier this year by Pro Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Professor Denise McAlister.

The awards are dedicated to the teaching staff of the university “that go over and beyond the call of duty for their students”. BBC Education Correspondent Maggie Taggart, a former student at the University of Ulster was the host for the event,which included the ‘selfie’ competition.


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