In the Four Courts

A poem by Jane Clarke in tribute to Averil Deverell, Ireland’s first female barrister

I’ve heard how the silks speak of me –
debutante turned dilettante, unfit

to sit in their midst. But we’re all
drawn to the law like gulls

to the lighthouse at Wicklow Head.
We don wigs and gowns,

research and rehearse our arguments,
adjusting volume, pace and pitch;

primed for the court room stage,
wits keen as the dagger in Macbeth.

Amid the frozen fog of prejudice
I watch for the lantern’s beam

and step lightly through the portico
to stand beneath Gandon’s dome.

Averil Deverell (1893-1979) was one of the first two female barristers in the UK and Ireland. She was called to the Irish bar on November 1st, 1921. Jane Clarke’s most recent collection is When the Tree Falls (Bloodaxe)