'A true lady whose kindness and generosity of spirit will be much missed.' Tributes pour in for beloved Irish writer Maeve Binchy who has died aged 72
16:50 GMT, 31 July 2012
Irish writer Maeve Binchy has died following a short illness, aged 72.
The best-selling author was famous for her warm stories about life and love in Ireland and sold more than 40 million books worldwide which were translated in to 30 languages.
Some of her work was also adapted for screen including the 1995 film Circle of Friends starring Minnie Driver and Chris O'Connell.
RIP: Maeve Binchy has passed away at the age of 72
A journalist, short story writer and best-selling novelist, Maeve Binchy was born in Dalkey in Co Dublin and was a pupil at the Holy Child Convent before studying at UCD.
After graduating she worked as a teacher and then in 1969 her writing career began when one of her stories earned her a job writing a column in the Irish Times.
She then became a journalist, columnist and later women’s editor at the Irish Times before moving to London and meeting Gordon Snell, a presenter for the BBC and author of children's books.
Her early short story collections were based in London and Dublin and featured sharp, funny and often poignant observations of residents of those cities.
Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle was published in 1982 and became a best seller.
Gone but not forgotten: The writer died following an illness
Set during World War II and in the following years, it featured many elements that were to characterise her work, life in small town Ireland, family relationships, humour and gripping plots.
She went on to publish many other novels and short story collections among them Circle of Friends and Tara Road both of which were adapted as feature films.
Today fans and peers paid tribute to the star in their thousands.
Screenwriter Andrew Davies worked with Maeve on the script for Circle of Friends.
He said: 'I met Maeve when I was adapting Circle of Friends for the screen and found her wonderfully warm and friendly. I went to see her at her house in Bray. I guessed that Circle of Friends was based on her own days at University college Dublin, and she gave me lots of sharp and comic details that weren't in the book – about half past eleven she said “Gordon and I usually have a bottle of champagne about this time in the morning, would you like to join us” and that seemed like a very good idea.
'Then we went out to lunch and had, if remember rightly, some lovely sea bass and about three bottles of Chardonnay, and never stopped laughing the whole time until I was poured into a taxi for the flight back.
'Circle of Friends was a joy to work on – vivid, truthful characters, with lots of humour and full of Maeve's unique warmth.'
Crime thriller bestselling author Ian Rankin said: ‘Maeve Binchy was a gregarious, larger than life, ebullient recorder of human foibles and wonderment. I’m taking a drink to her.’
Fellow female writer Claudia Carroll said: ‘Maeve Binchy was the mother of women’s commercial fiction. A true lady whose kindness and generosity of spirit will be much missed.’
And Amanda Brunker said: ‘Oh my word. Maeve Binchy has gone to the great library in the sky. What a legend, she will forever be remembered for her words and generosity,’
BINCHY BEST-SELLER LIST
1. Light a Penny Candle (1982)
2. Echoes (1985)
3. Firefly Summer (1987)
4. Silver Wedding (1988)
5. Circle of Friends (1990)
6. The Copper Beech (1992)
7. The Glass Lake (1994)
8. Evening Class (1996)
9. Tara Road (1998)
10. Scarlet Feather (2000)
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Chris O'Donnell and Minnie Driver star in the film adaptation of Circle of Friends in 1995
Although Maeve announced her retirement in 2000, she continued writing and her last novel Minding Frankie was published in 2010.
In the same year she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.
A BIOGRAPHY OF A BELOVED IRISH WRITER, IN HER OWN WORDS
'My memory of my home was that it was
very happy, and that there was more fun and life there than there was
anywhere else. My mother could do all kinds of things, like take a bone
out of your throat if it got stuck and you were choking, or clean out a
turkey on Christmas Eve when it arrived far from oven-ready. She could
take out splinters and cure headaches and get the grocer to deliver her a
packet of Gold Flake by giving a list of other items as well and asking
if it could be brought up to the house soon because she was in a hurry
for the cornflour. Our house was ten miles from Dublin City where we all
went to University and then to work. Ten miles is near enough to live
at home, and just a little too near to get a flat unless there was some
bad feeling. And there was no bad feeling.
Maeve at home in Dalkey, Ireland, with husband Gordon Snell
'I was the big bossy older sister, full of enthusiasms, mad fantasies,
desperate urges to be famous and anxious to be a saint. A settled sort
of saint, not one who might have to suffer or die for her faith. I was
terrified that I might see a Vision like St Bernadette or the Children
at Fatima and be a martyr instead. My school friends accused me of
making this up but I never looked up into trees in case I saw Our Lady
beckoning to me.
'I was lucky enough to be fairly quick at understanding what was taught,
but unlucky enough not to be really interested in it so I always got my
exams but never had the scholar’s love of learning for its own sake. And
even though I was fat and hopeless at games, which are very
unacceptable things for a schoolgirl, I was happy and confident. That
was quite simply because I had a mother and a father at home who thought
I was wonderful. They thought all their geese were swans. It was a gift
greater than beauty or riches, the feeling that you were as fine as
'My mother hoped I would meet a nice doctor or barrister or accountant
who would marry me and take me to live in what is now called Fashionable
Dublin Four. But she felt that this was a vain hope. I was a bit loud
to make a nice professional wife, and anyway, I was too keen on spending
my holidays in far flung places to meet any of these people. The future
leaders of society did not holiday on the decks of cheap boats, or work
in kibbutzim in Israel or mind children as camp counsellors in the
United States. She abandoned this hope on my behalf and got great value
out of my escapades in foreign parts. I wrote marvellous long rambling
letters home from these trips, editing out the bits they didn’t need to
know, bits about falling in love with highly unsuitable foreigners. In
fact my parents were so impressed with these eager letters from abroad
they got them typed and sent them to a newspaper and that’s how I became
'I met Gordon Snell, a writer, a man I loved and he loved me and we got
married and it was great and is still great. He believed I could do
anything, just as my parents had believed all those years ago and I
started to write fiction and that took off fine. And he loved Ireland,
and the fax was invented so we writers could live anywhere we liked,
instead of living in London near publishers.
'So now we have this house in Dalkey a few hundred yards from the house
where I lived with my parents. My sisters and brother all live nearby,
we are the closest of friends. We talk of old times without any heavy
emotion, we recall funny things, holidays down by the Atlantic where we
used to trail our bathing suits in the water and then hang them on the
clothes line to dry to let our parents think we had been for a healthy
refreshing swim. Why leave a good place'