Standing room only at author's simple but sad farewell with 'no eulogy or extras', as requested


THE FUNERAL of author and journalist Maeve Binchy’s was to be “very simple, as requested by Maeve, no eulogy or extras”, a relative told The Irish Times.

And so it was in Dalkey’s Church of the Assumption yesterday where there was standing room only and hundreds more watched proceedings on an RTÉ webcast in the Heritage Centre across the road.

Binchy died last Monday following a short illness. She was 72.

Mass celebrant Fr William Stuart described it as “a funeral for one of the townsfolk, a wonderful citizen, a wonderful person”.

In his homily he asked “what happens to love when someone we love dies? It changes form and becomes memory and memory never dies. And what memories we have of Maeve. There is not a person here now who cannot recall her warm infectious personality.” He said “a river of ink has been used to remember her”.

Earlier, to loud laughter from the congregation, he recalled how Maeve had described herself as a young girl who was “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.”

In his homily he said: “Maeve came from the tradition of the Magi. She was a searcher, a seeker of the divine, but it eluded her.”

First reading was from Ecclesiastics and by Kate Binchy Maeve’s cousin. Actor Frank Kelly read Psalm 23, The Lord is My Shepherd. The second reading from St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, on love, was by William Binchy, Maeve’s brother.

Other priests concelebrating the Mass included Fr John McDonagh, Fr Michael Collins of Haddington Road parish, and Fr Paddy Devitt administrator at Dalkey parish.

Music was by Liam O’Flynn, Seán Davey, Paddy Glackin and Rita Connolly. After the homily and as specially requested by Maeve, the Brendan theme, from The Brendan Voyage was played.

After Communion, Rita Connolly sang The Deer’s Cry (or St Patrick’s Breastplate) and as the coffin was taken from the church she sang Mo Ghile Mear.

The only flowers at the funeral were roses named “Rosa Gordon Snell”, recognised by the Royal National Rose Society in England after Maeve lodged the bloom as a special birthday present to her husband. She was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in May 1940, the eldest of four children. 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 also wrote four collections of short stories, a play called Deeply Regretted By and the novella Star Sullivan.

Chief mourners yesterday were Gordon Snell, her brother William Binchy and sister Joan Ryan. Another sister, Renee, died some years ago. President Michael D Higgins was represented by Col Brendan McAndrew and Taoiseach Enda Kenny by Cmdt Mick Treacy.

Editor of The Irish Times Kevin O’Sullivan was represented by deputy editor Denis Staunton, while managing director Liam Kavanagh and chairman of the Irish Times Board David Went were also present. There too was managing editor Patrick Smyth.

Other attendees included Press Ombudsman John Horgan, chairman of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Bob Collins; Séamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists and NUJ vice-president Barry McCall, writer Nell McCafferty, Mr Justice Peter Smithwick, former chair of the Arts Council Olive Braiden, Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty International Ireland, Alice Leahy of Trust and former Irish Film Classification Office director John Kelleher.

Former Irish Times journalists present included Renagh Holohan, Mary Maher, Conor O’Clery, Paul Gillespie, Paul Murray, Frances O’Rourke, Joe Joyce, Brendan Ó’Cathaoir, Brian Fallon, Mick Maguire and Canon Patrick Comerford. There too were other old friends of the deceased, retired Justice Mary Kotsonouris, Eileen Gleeson, Della O’Clery, Pat Foley, Eunice Bailey and Lynn Geldoff.

In attendance also were broadcasters Marian Finucane, Pat Kenny, Vincent Browne, John Kelly and RTÉ producers Séamus Hosey and Bernadette Comerford.

Also there were journalists Mike Burns, Jim Downey and Martina Devlin of the Irish Independent, producer Noel Pearson, director Jim Culleton, actors Brenda Fricker, Barry McGovern, Eamon Morrissey, Claudia Carroll, Pat Laffan, musician Jim Doherty, and Irish Times journalists Róisín Ingle, Deirdre McQuillan and Colm Boland.

Cremation later was private.