Death has taken place of Valerie Pakenham of Tullynally Castle

The death has taken place of the writer and former journalist, Valerie Pakenham, of Tullynally Castle in Castlepollard.

Valerie, the Countess of Longford, was wife of the writer and historian Thomas Pakenham 8th Earl of Longford, (although he does not use the title).

A native of Old Basing, in Hampshire, Valerie, 83, was the fourth of five children born to Major Ronald Guthrie McNair Scott and Hon Mary Cecilia Berry.

Prior to her marriage, Valerie worked in journalism in London with the publishers Condé Nast and the Daily Mail. Newspapers were in the family blood: her maternal grandfather, William Ewart Berry, 1st Viscount Camrose was editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times from 1915 and 1936; chairman of the Financial Times Ltd between 1919 and 1945; and chief proprietor and editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph in the years between 1928 and 1954.

Valerie married Thomas Pakenham on July 23, 1964. That made her sister-in-law to the authors Lady Antonia Fraser, Judith Kazantzis and Rachel Billington.

From a few years after their marriage, Valerie and Thomas were to spend most of their time at Tullynally, and the two became parents to Maria, Eliza, Ned and Fred.

At Tullynally, Valerie continued to write: she was author of The Battle of New Orleans Major-General Sir Edward M Pakenham (1965); Out in Noonday Sun: Edwardians in the Tropics (1985); Maria Edgeworth’s Letters from Ireland (2017); and Exploring Ireland’s Middle Kingdom (2021).

With her husband Thomas, she co-wrote A Traveller’s Companion to Dublin (1988) and The Big House in Ireland (2001).

Just last September, Valerie described coming to live in Tullynally 55 years earlier: “My husband, the writer Thomas Pakenham, had recently inherited Tullynally, a family castle in County Westmeath, and badly needed a wife to keep him company. The castle was huge, damp, semi-ruinous and probably not to most people’s taste.

“‘It’s not a pretty house, darling,’ said my mother with her usual frankness.

“But its surroundings were stunning – its romantic parkland was ringed with beautiful hills, and just beyond them lay an eight-mile-long limestone lake… Lough Derravaragh.”

In latter times, Valerie had become ill, but she fought hard to come through her illness. Sadly, she lost that battle, dying at her home on Sunday last. January 22, surrounded by her family.

As well as by her husband Thomas, her daughters Maria and Eliza and her sons Ned and Fred, Valerie is survived by her sons-in-law Bogislav Winner and Alex Chisholm; her daughters-in-law Sarah and Claire; her grandchildren Aidan, Ciarán, Samuel, Anselm, Matilda, Gabriel, Julia, Tom, Lyra, Sasha and Ferdy and her brother Nigel.