Sophie O’Brien nee Raffalovich 1860 – 1960


Sophie Raffalovich was born in Odessa, Russia in 1860. She was the only daughter of Marie and Herman Raffalovich. Her father was Russian and her mother was French. Herman Raffalovich was a wealthy Jewish banker to the Tsar. She had two brothers, Arthur, who was a noted economist and Andre who was a poet and a close friend of John Gray. Sophie spent most of her early years in Paris. The family moved there circa 1863. She married William O’Brien MP for Mallow in London in June 1890. The couple became acquainted because her mother had an interest in Irish politics and had corresponded with Michel Davitt during the 1880’s. Davitt visited Sophie’s home in Paris and introduced them to his friend William O’ Brien. At that time O’Brien was editor of the Irish Land League Newspaper ‘United Ireland’. They spent the first twenty years of their married life in Westport Co Mayo and after that in Mallow where their house still stands in Bellvue near the new Church of the Resurrection. The move delighted their friend Canon Sheehan parish priest of Doneraile and famous author. Sadly Canon Sheehan passed away within a few months of their taking up residence in Mallow.

Sophie was of great moral and practical support to her husband. She devoted herself to his well-being and was his secretary. Her considerable wealth was used to finance his career in politics. In 1917, the Russian revolution seems to have reduced her wealth considerably. She was known for her work amongst the poor during her years in Ireland. She was very committed to the Catholic faith. She was very well read and educated and became an Author herself with books including :

Under Croagh Patrick 1904

Unseen Friends  1912

Sister Mary Eustace  1923

Silhouettes d’Autrefois  1926

Around Broom Lane (Mallow)  1931

My Irish Friends  1937

Golden Memories  1929

In Feb 1928, the O’Brien’s travelled to London to get treatment for Williams failing heart but he died within a few days of their arrival. William and Sophie had been married for thirty-eight years. Sophie spent a few more years in Mallow but after a while, she found the large house a burden. She tried to sell Bellvue to an order of nuns but the Bishop of Cloyne would not give permission for another order of nuns in Mallow where the Mercy nuns were already established. The house was sold to a local farmer in 1933 and Sophie returned to Paris where she lived with her close friends Fernande and Lucie Guillemart. Sophie O’Brien died in 1860 just a few days short of her 100th birthday. Bellvue has changed hands a number of times over the years and has been tastefully preserved and maintained by the present owners Mr & Mrs Dan O’Mahony.