The Countess of Longford, who died 21 January, 2023, aged 83, did not use her aristocratic title and was known as Valerie Pakenham, the writer, who achieved considerable success with her books.
She was born Valerie Susan McNair Scott, 13 November, 1939, the third daughter of Major Ronald Guthrie McNair Scott (1904-1995), of Huish House, Old Basing, Hampshire, by his wife the former Hon Mary Cecilia Berry (1906-1996), and was the granddaughter of William Berry, 1st Viscount Camrose (1879-1954), proprietor and editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph from 1928 to 1954.
Prior to her marriage she worked in journalism in London with the publishers Condé Nast and the Daily Mail.
Valerie claimed “always to have hated proper writing”, but nevertheless achieved considerable success with her books, many exploring the history and culture of Ireland. This was her adopted homeland where, with her husband Thomas, she restored his family seat Tullynally Castle and its gardens, in Co Westmeath, opening them to the public.
She married 23 July, 1964, Thomas Frank Dermot Pakenham (born 14 August, 1933), who declined the use of a courtesy title, eldest son of the 7th Earl of Longford, KG, PC (1905-2001), and his wife the former Elizabeth Harman, CBE (the writer, biographer Elizabeth Longford, who died 23 October, 2002). Her husband succeeded his father, 3 Aug, 2001, as 8th Earl of Longford (Peerage of Ireland, cr 1785), Baron Silchester (UK, cr 1821), and 2nd Baron Pakenham (Peerage of the UK, cr 1945), but does not use the titles.
Following her marriage to Pakenham in 1964 her life switched from England to Ireland. On the death three years earlier of his uncle, Valerie Pakenham’s new husband had inherited what she once described as his family’s ancestral “huge, damp and semi-ruinous” Gothic castle. Thomas’s father had decided to forgo the inheritance and skip a generation to avoid double death duties.
At Tullynally Castle, 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).
Valerie Pakenham is survived by her husband and two sons, Edward (born 6 Jan, 1970), and Frederick (born 27 Nov, 1971), and by two daughters, Anna Maria (born 26 July, 1965), and Eliza (born 3 Nov, 1966).