Averil Katherine Statter Deverell was one of the first women, along with Frances Kyle, to be admitted to the bar in Ireland on November 1st 1921. It was almost a year later before Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the English Bar.
Little is known about Deverell’s life. Born in Dublin on the 2nd January 1893, her parents were William Deverell and Ada Catherine Slatter Deverell. She had a twin brother, William Berenger Statter Deverell. She attended the French School, Bray, Co. Wicklow from 1905 to 1909, and appeared in many of their dramatic productions. She continued to act when she attended Trinity College and was involved in the Dublin University Dramatic Society. Her scrapbook from this time includes a programme from a suffragette play. Averil was presented at Court to King George V and Queen Mary on the 8th July 1911.
Averil as a student of King’s Inn
Deverell was among the first female graduates from Trinity College, Dublin, and was awarded a law degree in 1915. She served as an ambulance driver in France and Flanders in 1918. In January 1920, she became a student at King’s Inns along with Frances Kyle, following the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. Averil was called to the Bar on the same day as her brother, William.
Two years after this, Mary Dorothea Heron became the first woman admitted as a solicitor in Ireland, although she never took out a practising certificate.
In 1928, The Londonderry Sentinel reported that Averil became the first Irish woman barrister to appear before the Privy Council in London. She was also the first woman to appear in the Supreme Court of Ireland and the Court of Criminal Appeal in Ireland. Alongside her work at the bar, she was a keen breeder of cairn terriers, naming her home “The Brehon Kennel”.
Averil remained in practice until she retired in 1969. She died on the 11th February 1979, aged 86. A portrait of her hangs in the Law Library of Ireland, and a lectureship in the Law School of Trinity College is named after her.
Photographs © British Newspaper Archive
Liz Goldthorpe – From Presentation to Pioneer – Averil Deverell and Dublin Castle
Liz Goldthorpe, “First Woman to Practise as a Barrister in Ireland and the (then) United Kingdom, Averil Deverell, 1921”, E. Rackley & R. Auchmuty (eds.) Women’s Legal Landmarks
King’s Inn Library, ‘The Averil Deverell Exhibition’, 23 April 2018
C. Kenny, ‘Trove belonging to Averil Deverell, Ireland’s first female barrister, is saved’, The Irish Times, 20 January 2018
J. Harford & C. Rush, Have Women Made a Difference? Women in Irish Universities, 1950 – 2010 , Peter Lang Publishers, 2010
‘Lady of the Law’, Dublin Evening Telegraph , 29 January 1920, p.2
‘Ladies Apply for Admission as Law Students’, Dublin Evening Telegraph , 22 January 1920, p.2
‘Belfast’s Woman Barrister at Work’, The Vote , 3 March 1922, p.70
‘Ireland’s Great Dog Show’, Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News , 31 March 1954 p.312-313
‘The Law’s Delay Prevents Coloured Woman Barrister’s Appearance’ Northern Whig , 25 July, 1928, p.12
‘University Intelligence, Trinity College Dublin’, The Belfast News-Letter, 8 November, 1911, p.2
‘Lady Law Students’, Weekly Freeman’s Journal , 24 January 1920, p.5
‘University Intelligence, Trinity College Dublin’, Dublin Daily Express – 09 May 1911
‘Transferred Civil Servants. Free State Claim Before Privy Council’, Londonderry Sentinel, 26 July 1928, p.8