Fitzgerald, Barbara (Barbara Fitzgerald Somerville) (1911–82), novelist, was born 16 December 1911 in Cork, the daughter of Dr J. A. Gregg (qv), then professor of divinity at Trinity College, Dublin. Spending her childhood between Dublin and Kilkenny, she went to school in England before returning to Trinity College as a foundation scholar in 1931. She graduated with honours in French and Italian in 1933 and became engaged to Michael Fitzgerald Somerville, son of Boyle Somerville (qv), murdered by the IRA on 14 March 1936. They married at St Bartholomew's church, Dublin, on 21 August 1935, with hundreds of people lining the streets of Ballsbridge to watch this high society wedding. Her father performed the marriage ceremony before they departed for a honeymoon in Scotland. Somerville was an oil executive and they lived in west Africa until the outbreak of the Second World War, when they returned to live in England.
The title of her first novel and Book Society recommendation, We are besieged (1946), suggests the sense of threat around its composition, as it details the destruction in 1920 of a big house, Butler's Hill. In it, the reader receives an intimate glimpse of the emotional sensibilities of the displaced Anglo-Irish. Relatives of the dead of the First World War gather in Dublin in 1926 to sing ‘God save the king’ at the BBC's radio armistice remembrance, in a scene to match any fiction of Elizabeth Bowen (qv). The novel is also rare for its conclusion: the newly married Caroline Hunt and David Butler rebuild the big house to restore its legacy to an independent Ireland, whose aspirations the new owners accept. She had written one more novel by 1955, Footprints upon water, that was published posthumously in 1983. Again centred on the protestant rural gentry, the novel sets Ireland in a colonial context that relates its characters to India and Africa as much as to England. Interesting for its psychology of the young Susan Fellowes, the novel is also remarkable for its detail: a red bicycle provided by the British post office to the local telegram boy is anomalous in the green countryside of her book.
She retired to Ireland with her husband in 1968, but suffered from ill health thereafter and succumbed to early dementia. She died 21 May 1982 in Dublin, leaving a son and daughter.