Averil Deverell BL in profile

On the 1st of November 1921 history was made at the Irish Bar. It was the first call of the newly fledged Irish Free State, the first to occur after partition and the division of the island of Ireland into two jurisdictions and the first to see women called to the Bar of Ireland. One of those women was Averil Deverell, a remarkable personality who would go on to carve out a place at the Irish Bar for future generations of women lawyers.

As a child Averil attended the ‘French School’ in Bray, where young protestant ladies from all over Ireland were educated. Whilst at school she indulged a love of theatre and acting, no doubt honing skills that would stand in good stead in the courtroom. She began her undergraduate studies in Trinity College Dublin in 1911, the same year she was presented at court in Dublin Castle to King George V and went on to receive an LLB in 1915. At this time there was a world war raging across Europe of which Ireland, as a country within the United Kingdom, was a participant. Averil had been encouraged by her father to learn to drive as a teenager and she decided to use this skill and apply to the Queen Alexandra First Aid Nurse Yeomanry for a position as ambulance driver on the Front. Initially, she had to pass a driving test in London, which she did, but because she was unable to “re-assemble a dismantled engine” they refused her entry. This stipulation was revoked six months later and Averil drove with the ambulance corps, serving in France from July to December 1918. (Bacik, Costello, & Drew, 2003)

On the 1st of November 1921 Averil, along with Frances Kyle, was one of the first women called to the Irish Bar. The call of the first two women barristers made headlines at the time, not just in Irish newspapers where they were referred to as the “Irish Portias”, but also in the London Times and the New York Times. Both women were called alongside 18 men, one of whom was Averil’s twin brother, Captain William Deverell. Though Averil was the second woman called to the Bar, she was the first to enter the Law Library in Dublin and was mentioned in the Irish Law Times of 14th January 1922 where it was commented “An interesting figure amongst the members of the Bar was Miss A. Deverell, who has joined the Law Library. She wears the regulation wig and gown” (I.L.T. & S.J., 1922).  Averil remained the soul female member of the library until June 1923 when Mary Dillon-Leetch joined her, but though greatly outnumbered this did not stop her from trying to become an active member of the Bar.

Averil remained in Greystones throughout her life. Whilst not practising at the Bar she bred Cairn Terriers and was an active member of Greystones Golf Club. She died in 1979, the same year Mella Carroll became the first Chairwoman of the Bar Council.