Sunday 19 November 2017

Maeve Binchy: Warm tributes paid to beloved Dalkey author on her death after illness

Maeve in 1982
Maeve with her husband, the children's author Gordon Snell
Maeve with fellow writer Sarah Webb

Lyndsey Telford and Sarah Stack

THE worlds of arts, politics and journalism have led tributes to Irish novelist Maeve Binchy, who has died at the age of 72.

Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny lamented the passing of a national treasure, while literary colleagues and friends from the world of print and broadcasting remembered a warm and generous friend.

The former journalist and best-selling author died peacefully in hospital yesterday with her husband, children's writer Gordon Snell, by her side.

Binchy wrote 16 novels and sold more than 40 million books worldwide during her career.

Mr Kenny offered her family his deepest sympathies, on behalf of the Government and the Irish people, who he said had lost a national treasure.

"Across Ireland and the world people are mourning and celebrating Maeve Binchy," he said.

"She is a huge loss wherever stories of love, hope, generosity and possibility are read and cherished.

"Today, as a nation, we are thankful for and proud of the writer and the woman Maeve Binchy."

Mr Higgins, a well-known lover of the arts, described the acclaimed novelist as a great storyteller, who had engaged and inspired millions the world over.

"In recent years she showed great courage and thankfully never lost her self-deprecating humour, honesty and remarkable integrity as an artist and human being," said the President.

Former British politician and author Jeffrey Archer was a close friend of Binchy for more than 30 years.

He said she had the great God-given Irish gift of telling stories, who loved people and had a zest for life.

"She had that great gift of making you feel life was worth living. A very, very special person," Archer revealed.

International best-selling author Marian Keyes said Binchy was a trailblazer for Irish writers and was genuinely happy to see their success.

Keyes recalled a story Binchy told her about visiting an airport book shop.

"She rearranged a whole wall of books so it was completely full of Irish writers," said Keyes.

"She didn't look like she was any trouble so no one caught her."

Several of Binchy's works were adapted for screen, including Circle Of Friends, The Lilac Bus and Tara Road.

Oscar-winning actress Brenda Fricker, starred in a number of the productions.

"She was charming, intelligent, warm, generous in her time, with her effort, with her work," she said.

"I just had the greatest of respect for her because she suffered badly from arthritis, and she had a lot of pain, and she never complained, you know."

Tributes also flooded in from the National Union of Journalist and the national broadcaster, RTE, where Binchy had worked on a range of TV and radio programmes throughout her career.

Director general Noel Curran said she would be deeply missed by all in the organisation.

"She was a warm and honest writer, with a sharp and intelligent wit, and she was a warm and honest person too," he said.

Born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, Binchy studied at University College Dublin before starting her career as a teacher.

She went on to become a journalist at the Irish Times. She moved to England, where she became London editor with the paper to be with her husband, a former BBC presenter.

The couple later moved back to Dalkey, living few hundred yards from the house where she grew up with her parents.

Binchy's popular early collections of humorous short stories were based in London and Dublin but her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, became a best-seller when published in 1982.

The author, who was considered a true Irish storyteller, made Britain's top 10 most popular writers, the New York Times' Best-seller List and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

While Binchy announced her retirement in 2000, she continued writing.

Her last novel, Minding Frankie, was published in 2010 - the same year she received a lifetime achievement award from the Irish Book Awards.

In a personal message on her website when Minding Frankie was released in the US, she thanked fans who said they had enjoyed it.

"My health isn't so good these days and I can't travel around to meet people the way I used to. But I'm always delighted to hear from readers, even if it takes me a while to reply," she wrote.

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