Trove belonging to Averil Deverell, Ireland’s first female barrister, is saved
Vivid archive donated to King’s Inns after its importance spotted by retired judge
A sketch of Averil Deverell by the well-known Irish artist Seán O’Sullivan.
A page from Averil Deverell’s autograph book featuring a watercolour of ‘pretty Miss Rill… a maid with a will’.
Averil Deverell from Greystones, whose father was Clerk of the Crown and Peace for Co Wicklow, became a barrister in 1921.
She drove an ambulance in France during the first World War. Then, in 1919 the law changed to allow women to become barristers.
By 1921 she and another Irish woman, Frances or “Fay” Kyle, had been admitted to King’s Inns in Dublin and made history by becoming the first women to be called to the bar in the UK, of which Ireland was still a part.
In 1976, Osborne and Betty Spurling bought Deverell’s former home in Co Wicklow. Many of her possessions had been left behind or even thrown into bags for dumping.
Then last year, Liz Goldthorpe, a retired English judge researching early female lawyers in the UK, discovered the collection in Greystones. Seeing its significance for legal and social historians, the Spurling family has now donated it to the library of King’s Inns.
“Most items have been stored all that time in drawers with the occasional check for condition over the 40 years,” said Mr Spurling.
Among the items found is an original sketch of Deverell, who never married, by the well-known Irish artist Seán O’Sullivan.
Like many young women in 1910, Deverell had an autograph book. It was not for celebrities to sign, but where friends might write a verse or draw images. One painted a small watercolour of “pretty Miss Rill . . . a maid with a will”.
Some of the items belonged to Deverell’s ancestors. They include a wax candle made about 1770 at a factory established by one of her family on the estate of Count Razumovsky in the Ukraine.
Some items refer to her time as lady captain of Greystones Golf Club, and others to her breeding terriers in “the Brehon Kennel” at her home, perhaps to supplement her limited income as a woman at the bar.
There are books of legal and general interest, including an 1836 edition of the Koran in English and a striking programme for a performance of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova at the Palais du Trocadéro in Paris.
The Spurling family has donated her archive to King’s Inns. Viewing is by appointment.