I suspect that I was but one of thousands who cried today as the report of the funeral service of Maeve Binchy was broadcast across Ireland on RTE Radio’s News at One. I had just left the Book Centre in Waterford, where I have bought so many of Maeve’s books over the years, when the report began and it was one of those times when I understood what W.H. Auden meant when he wrote: Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone …
A flood of thoughts flashed into my mind about this remarkable woman who was such a fundamental part of all that is good about Ireland. Like many, many others, I was introduced to Maeve Binchy’s inspiration by my late mother who was an avid reader of her columns in the Irish Times and later of her international best-selling novels. Memories of Mother deeply engrossed in books like Light a Penny Candle , The Lilac Bus, and Echoes are still very much with me. It always seemed fitting that she would read Maeve’s books first and then pass them on to me. They were books we both devoured and somehow Maeve had an ability to appeal right across generations.
I just loved listening to her talk – with that genuine smiley tone and honesty. She certainly never lost the run of herself even with all her fame and was prepared to address the most human of human issues – like how she couldn’t resist eavesdropping as it gave her great ideas for stories.
I treasure days that I lay out on Killiney Beach, not far from Maeve’s home in Dalkey, Co. Dublin, reading her novels which were so perceptive of people and their foibles. Those were days when I was supposed to be studying Sociology but, now that I think about it, Maeve’s books were in themselves significant commentaries on Irish society and it was just lovely to escape into them with the sun on my back warming up on the shaley sand of Killiney after a stolen swim.
As I listened to the report about Maeve’s funeral service today, I was glad that I had written to her seven or eight years ago to tell her how much Mother and I enjoyed her books and to tell her what an inspiration she was to both of us in our writing endeavours. The lovely colourful card that she sent back is one of my all-time treasures. It was written as if I was the only person who had ever read her books or contacted her. It was full of encouragement, warmth and absolute human kindness.
Maeve, I want to say ‘goodbye’ and thank you for all the happiness you brought and most of all for your generosity of spirit.