Lady Rosemary Garvey

Linguist/Ambassador's Wife

Lady Rosemary Pritchard Garvey.
Bletchley Park Lake
Bletchley Park main building stained glass window
West Gate Peking University
Yugoslavia Map
Murrisk Abbey, Co. Mayo.
Murrisk Abbey Graveyard
Dympna Joyce.

This impressive lady spent her married life supporting both husbands whilst ensuring children of both marriages were cared for.  She learned several languages during her travels.

Rosemary Margaret Pritchard was born in Greater London on September 19th 1918. Her father was Dr.  Harold Pritchard born in Dublin during 1921, her mother was Edith Margaret neé Little.  Her education at Oxford University ended with her father’s demise during Autumn 1938.


Rosemary Pritchard sought employment within the British Government at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire as a supervisor over the team of mathematicians and linguists who broke the German naval codes. (This establishment was the home of Britain’s main decryption establishment, the Government Code and Cypher School (GCCS), where ciphers and codes of several Axis countries were decrypted, significantly altering the course of the war.)   At the end of W.W.2 Rosemary Pritchard went to Germany as part of the British transitional government of the defeated nation.  She married a member of that team, Dublin-born Sir Terence Garvey.


Together they served in Yugoslavia (1968 – 1971), there she learned to admire Marshal Tito while also befriending his critics; not many foreign diplomats in Belgrade spoke Serbo-Croat well enough for that. They were in Cairo when the British bombed the city; the Egyptians, she stated were courteous towards their diplomatic guests.  As British ambassador to Peking, China, (1963 – 1965) she confessed that she acquired only enough Chinese to run the embassy household!  But at dinner seated next to Chairman Mao, she stated that when the talk grew sticky Prime Minister Zhou Enlai winked at her.  She had charm also the wit to know when an ambassador’s wife should intervene, and when not.   Sir Terence Garvey was returned as head of the British mission to Yugoslavia with Tito still an admiring friend (Garvey saw how he won over his experimental guest, Princess Margaret, sent to test the water for the Queen’s first trip to a Communist state.)  In New Delhi (1971-1973) Lady Rosemary alarmed her high-caste official acquaintances by helping to educate outcast children! By the time of a posting to the British Embassy in Moscow (1973-1975) her Russian was pretty good.  [i]  There is the story that once she made preparations for a royal visit only to discover that in Russia flowers cost 1 pound a stalk!  She considered that far too expensive for the embassy’s purse so she purchased flowers from a staff member for 25 pence a stem, “All them Cornfields and Ballets in the Evening” by John Miller 2011 Hodgson Press. [ii]


Rosemary married The Hon. Sir Con Douglas Walter O’Neill a British Diplomat, (1912 – 1938, he was son of Robert H.W. O’Neill, 1st Lord Rathcavan and Sylvia Irene Sandeman on June 22nd 1940.  Rosemary and Con were divorced in 1954.  They had two children Onora Sylvia born in 1941 and Rowan Peter Hugh (1944 – 1990.)  Lady Rosemary’s second marriage was to Sir Terence Garvey (1915 – 1986) a British Diplomat.  He was son of Dr. Francis Willcocks Garvey and Ethel Margaret Ray (Her family had a Shipping Business that traded in Irish waters).  He had three children Kate, Bill and Christopher. [iii]

British Diplomat

Sir Terence Garvey never gave up his Irish passport as he rose through the British diplomatic service.  They both worked on an intriguing history of his family “Kilkenny to Murrisk” a family history; Westport, 1992.  It told the story of an Irish family who co-operated with the British Government who gave them the lands of the Augustinian friars around Murrisk Abbey during the 1580s.  Garvey was appointed CMC in the 1955 Queen’s Honours list also Knighted KCMS in the 1969 New Year’s Honours list.  He published “Bones of Contention, An enquiry into East-West Relations” during 1978. An article entitled “Traitor or Patriot? The case of Edward Garvey of Rosmindle” was published in the Cathair na Mart Historical Journal Vol 6 No 1 in 1978. [iv]


When her husband Sir Terence died Lady Rosemary Garvey continued to live her life in Louisburgh.  She welcomed all visits by eminent and learned old colleagues.  She enriched the lives of those in the area with memories and flashes of wisdom from the days when she was someone whose role in two wars (one bloody, one Cold) helped to sustain the world’s fragile peace. She also loved her successive border collies.  She had weekly magazines purchased to peruse. As her hearing deteriorated she played tapes loudly! Her neighbours ensured she was cared for as her body weakened but she was always blessed with a very wise mind. [v]


Lady Rosemary Garvey contributed “Senior Citizens; Letters from George Agustus Moore” (1852 – 1933) to John William Frederick Garvey (1856 – 1940)” to the Cathair na Mart Historical Journal, Vol. no. 13 during 1993. [vi]

She died on August 17th 2011, a Service was held at Holy Trinity Church, Westport. She is buried at Murrisk Abbey ruins with her husband Sir Terence Garvey. [vii]

[i] – Obit for Lady Rosemary Garvey

[ii] Cathair Na Mart Journal, 1993, –  Vol 13,

[iii] – Obit for Lady Rosemary Garvey

[iv] Cathair Na Mart Journal, Vol 6 1986, – Page 63

[v] – Obit for Lady Rosemary Garvey

[vi] Cathair na Mart Journal, 1993 Vol. no. 13

[vii] – Obit for Lady Rosemary Garvey

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