UCD honours Maeve Binchy with €4,000 travel award for creative writing

Inaugural winner to explore the 31 regions of the BBC shipping forecast

To commemorate one of Ireland's best-loved writers, Maeve Binchy, and her love of travel, the UCD School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin has inaugurated the Maeve Binchy Travel Award. The annual award, valued at €4,000, funds a UCD student to pursue a novel travel opportunity that will enhance her or his creative writing talent.

The inaugural award was presented to UCD creative writing MFA student Henrietta McKervey today to mark the anniversary of Maeve Binchy's birthday on May 28th. Gordon Snell, Maeve's husband, was present for the award presentation.

McHervey, who read her first Maeve Binchy novel, Light a Penny Candle, at 13 years of age, will use the award to travel the BBC Radio 4 shipping forecast: a series of weather reports from 31 areas around Britain and Ireland beginning off the coast of Norway and ending in the icy waters off southeast Iceland.

“The last nightly broadcast at 00:48 is hypnotic, a lullaby. A ritual of reassurance that all is in order, that we are safe,” said McHervey.

"Maeve Binchy's determination to travel was crucial to the launch of her writing career; Henrietta, a gifted writer, will follow in her footsteps with this thrilling project. We all look forward to reading its results," said Prof Margaret Kelleher, chair of Anglo-Irish literature and drama at UCD, who also chairs the selection committee for the Maeve Binchy Travel Award.

Binchy completed a BA and a Higher Diploma in Education at UCD before working as a teacher at various schools in Dublin. She then wrote for The Irish Times and was appointed women's editor in 1968. She loved to holiday in far-flung places like "on the decks of boats, or working in kibbutzim in Israel or minding children as camp counsellors in the United States". She would greatly amuse her family with her letters home which gave vivid accounts of her adventures abroad. "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 once said.

Binchy's first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982. She wrote a further 16 novels, several of which, including Circle of Friends and Tara Road, were made into feature films. Speaking to The Irish Times shortly before her death, the author said, "I don't have any regrets about any roads I didn't take." She died peacefully aged 72 in July 2012.

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