The Memoirs and Diaries of Judith Isobel Chavasse: An Account of Life in West Cork

and Waterford (1867-1935)


A new book which recounts a woman’s life from West Cork to Kilmeaden, Waterford, through an almost complete set of diaries from 1890 to 1933 is set to be launched by Waterford historian and genealogist Julian Walton, next week.

The book, which chronicles the life of Judith Isobel Chavasse (née Fleming, 1867-1935), written by Dr Rachel Finnegan, will be launched at 7.30 p.m. at the Greenway Manor Hotel, Waterford, on Thursday, 27th June.

This book tells the story of Judith’s childhood and early adult years through her memoirs, written towards the end of her life, and describes her courtship and married life through an almost complete set of diaries from 1890 to 1933. The final two years of her life, when she stopped keeping her diary, are told through the diaries of her husband, Major Henry (Hal) Chavasse (1863-1943), who survived her by eight years.

Born and raised in West Cork, Judith spent the first 15 years of her married life in Whitfield Court, Kilmeaden, which her husband leased from the Christmas family from 1898 to 1913. It was there that she made her first long-term family home, raised her four sons (a fifth died in infancy), and cared for her widowed mother, Elizabeth Fleming, until her death in 1911. While Judith kept house with the aid of a small staff of servants (for whom a detailed record has survived) and spent much of her time socialising with the local Anglo-Irish community or taking her children to parties at local big houses such as Pouldrew, Rockett’s Castle, Old Court and Mount Congreve, her husband developed and ran three model farms on the estate, famous for its novel breed of shorthorn cattle.

Judith’s diaries tell of her frequent trips into Waterford to go shopping, have fittings with her dressmaker, or take lunch or tea at White’s, as well as to attend religious events at the Bishop’s Palace, the Cathedral and the Protestant Hall, often with her female visitors, especially her sisters Bess and Hats, who were married to clergymen in Co. Kildare and Dublin. These unique sources also describe Judith’s involvement in parish or more general missionary work, which often took the form of ‘drawing-room’ meetings at local houses, bazaars and school fetes, as well as her interest in women’s affairs, particularly concerning health matters.

Beyond a simple historical account, this biography delves into Judith's personal trials, her struggles with domestic life and ill health, and her devotion to the grand houses that framed her life story. This story of her privileged life is set against the backdrop of the turbulent times of the Boer War, and after she had returned to West Cork, in 1913, the First World War and the Troubles.

Copies available from local bookshops or direct from the author and publisher at: