Beyond the relaxed image she was utterly professional
When she moved to the newspaper’s London office and married her beloved Gordon, most of her colleagues, I think, believed that it would only be a matter of time before she would move on from The Irish Times and sign up with some Fleet Street title at a staggering salary.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for her, once the early books were successful. She could have run off a weekly column that would pay vastly more than anything The Irish Times might offer. But she remained loyal to the newspaper all of her life. She once told me how she felt it had positioned her for her success as a novelist. And she was always grateful to Douglas Gageby, my predecessor as editor, who facilitated her relocation to London with the assurance that if it did not turn out as she hoped, there would always be a place for her back in Dublin.
Down the years, whenever The Irish Times sent out the call, Maeve responded. Whether it was to provide a new short story for the dog-days of a long summer, or to turn up at some event or award, she would invariably deliver. God knows, it was not because she needed the publicity or the modest cheque. It was her generous, loyal nature and an instinct to be true to herself, to where she had come from and to the influences that had shaped her.
She was intensely loyal to her former colleagues and to friends. Tales of her generosity to others are legion.
She believed strongly that her commercial success gave her a means of helping people who might need it. A great many problems were discreetly solved or alleviated by a quiet financial intervention.
Similarly, she was generous with her encouragement to other writers. She used her huge network of industry contacts to connect new talents to agents and others who might help to bring their work to publication or to a commissioning editor’s desk.
She loved her craft in all its forms, from the colour feature, turned out against a printing deadline, to the considered, sensitive prose of the novel.
In later years, as her health declined and her mobility reduced, she was unable to lead as full a life as before. But she maintained her links, often by a postcard from “Pollyvilla”, always with well-chosen words. Organised to the end!
She loved Gordon, her extended family and her many friends. To them, we extend condolences. A great, generous, loving presence has gone from their lives.
Conor Brady is a former editor of The Irish Times.