Maeve Binchy, best-loved writer of her generation, dies aged 72
THE WRITER and journalist Maeve Binchy (72) died peacefully in a Dublin hospital last night after a short illness. Her husband Gordon Snell was by her side.
She was probably one of the best-loved Irish writers of her generation,
Born at Dalkey, Co Dublin, in May 1940, she was the eldest of four children. She is survived by her brother, Prof William Binchy, and sister Joan. Another sister, Renee, died some years ago. As she wrote on her website: “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.”
She attended the Holy Child Convent in Killiney, then UCD and worked for a time as a teacher at various schools in Dublin before she began writing for The Irish Times. In 1968 she was appointed its Women’s Editor. It was not what her mother intended. Maeve wrote: “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.” She spent time in those years “on the decks of cheap boats, or working in kibbutzim in Israel or minding children as camp counsellors in the United States”.
In letters home her accounts of escapades in those places amused her family greatly. “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 a writer,” she said.
She was appointed to The Irish Times London office in the early 1970s and it was there she began writing fiction. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982. It was in London also that she met her husband, Gordon Snell.
She described him as “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.”
She wrote 16 novels, two of which, The Lilac Bus and Echoes, were made into TV films while Circle of Friends, Tara Road and How About You were made into feature films. She wrote four collections of short stories, a play Deeply Regretted By and the novella Star Sullivan.
In this newspaper on July 3rd last she said: “I don’t have any regrets about any roads I didn’t take. Everything went well, and I think that’s been a help because I can look back, and I do get great pleasure out of looking back...I’ve been very lucky and I have a happy old age with good family and friends still around.”