Laverty (Kelly), (Mary) Maura (1907–66), author and broadcaster, was born 15 May 1907 in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, the third of nine surviving children of Michael Kelly and Mary Ann Kelly (née Treacy). Her father appears to have given up his career in farming at his wife's insistence, to set up a drapery shop. He was an unsuccessful businessman, and when he ran into financial difficulties his wife maintained the family by dressmaking. As a child Maura appears to have been closest to her maternal grandmother, with whom she spent much of her childhood and who developed her interest in cookery. Educated at the Brigidine convent in Tullow, Co. Carlow, she was forced to give up plans to become a teacher after the death of her grandmother, and in November 1924 she travelled to Spain as a governess. She found the restrictive life of a governess intolerable and soon abandoned the work.
Having taught herself typing and shorthand, she was engaged as a private secretary to Prince Bibesco, husband of the writer Princess Bibesco. She subsequently worked in several offices and at a Madrid bank, and was finally employed as a journalist for the paper El Debate. While in Spain she also contributed poems, stories, and translations from Spanish to several Irish magazines and freelanced as a foreign correspondent. On returning to Ireland in 1928 she broke off her engagement to a Hungarian engineer, whom she had met in Spain, and shortly afterwards married the journalist James Laverty, with whom she had been corresponding. They had three children, one of whom became the artist Barry Castle. As her husband was unable to make an adequate living, she continued her writing, and became a prolific contributor to magazines and newspapers in both Ireland and Britain, including The Bell and the English newspaper Sunday Empire News, which was banned in Ireland. She also worked as a broadcaster, compering in the 1950s the ESB's sponsored lunchtime programme on Radio Éireann.
Laverty's first novel, Never no more (1942), a largely autobiographical story based on her childhood recollections of life with her grandmother in rural Ireland, was well received by critics, in particular Sean O'Faolain (qv), who wrote its enthusiastic preface. She followed it with Touched by a thorn (1943; also published as Alone we embark), which, although temporarily banned by the Irish censor, won the Irish Women's Writer's Award, and No more than human (1944), another semi-autobiographical novel set in Spain. She drew on her impressions of Dublin's poor, gathered during a period living in the Fitzwilliam Lane area of the Dublin, for her final novel, Lift up your gates (1946); after successfully adapting it for the stage as ‘Liffey Lane’ (1951), she produced two more plays, ‘Tolka Row’ (1951) and ‘A tree in the crescent’ (1952). The former became the popular RTÉ serial, which she scripted. Among her books for children were The cottage in the bog (1946) and The green orchard (1949).
As a cookery writer Laverty was extremely popular. Her cookbooks include Flour economy (1941), written with war-time shortages in mind, Kind cooking (1946), which included a section on diet by Sybil le Brocquy and illustrations by Louis Le Brocquy and was chosen as the Irish non-fiction ‘book of the month’ in America, and Full and plenty (1960). She died 26 July 1966 of a heart attack at her home in Butterfield Crescent, Rathfarnham, Dublin.