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. They were among the first women to be called to the bar anywhere in the world. It was almost a year later before Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the English Bar.
Little is known about Averil’s life. Born in Dublin on the 2nd January 1893, her parents were William Deverell and Ada Catherine Slatter Deverell. Averil 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
Averil 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. When Frances and Averil were called to the Bar on the 1st November 1921, they were part of the first cohort of people to be called since the Irish Judiciary became independent from England. Averil became the first woman to practise at the bar anywhere in the world. 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.
Averil Deverell and Frances Kyle at their call to the Bar in 1921
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, and is buried in Greystones, County Wicklow, alongside her twin brother William. 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.
Written by Annabel Twose, Project Coordinator of First 100 Years
A sketch of Averil by the Irish artist Seán O’Sullivan