Members of the Irish film and television industry have this morning paid tribute to best-selling novelist Maeve Binchy who has died aged 72 following a short illness.
Ms Binchy was born in Dalkey in Co Dublin and sold more than 40 million books worldwide which were translated into 30 languages. Many of her novels and short stories have been adapted for both the big and small screen.
‘Circle of Friends’ (1995), ‘Tara Road’ (2005) and ‘How About You’ (2007) were all made into feature films and shot in Ireland, while ‘The Lilac Bus’ (1990) and ‘Anner House’ (2007) were made into TV movies. Her novel ‘Echoes’ was also made into a four-part TV series in 1988.
Irish producer Noel Pearson, a close friend of Binchy’s, produced two of her stories for the big screen –‘Tara Road’ and ‘How About You’ – as well as the recent RTÉ documentary on her life, ‘Maeve Binchy – At Home In The World’.
This morning he described the Dublin-born author as “probably the most generous and kindest person I ever met,” adding “I know that that might sound sweeping or whatever, but she was kind to everyone. She cared a lot about other people and she worked really, really hard.”
Speaking on radio Pearson added: “I’ve only known her about 15 years. I did ‘Tara Road’ by accident. She was trying to do it herself and then I met her one day and we sat down and talked about it and then I just took it over. I asked her to do ‘How About You’ about four years ago with Vanessa Redgrave. Then I persuaded her to do a documentary. She didn’t want to do a documentary. She didn’t want people saying nice things about her, she just didn’t want it! I said you have to and so she did it.”
Remembering the times that he worked with her, Pearson joked: “If everyone was as easy as her to work with I’d never stop working. She was terrific. You went and you talked and suggested this fella and that woman to play this. She always put in her penny worth, but she was great. She will be such a loss to so many people. I couldn’t begin to tell you the kindness that she gave to people.”
Actor and writer Shane Connaughton (My Left Foot) adapted both ‘The Lilac Bus’ and ‘Tara Road’ for the screen. He remembers first meeting Binchy in the 1970s while she was then working as a journalist.
“She interviewed me when she was working for The Irish Times in London,” Connaughton told IFTN. “She interviewed me in Fleet Street when I was an actor over there. This was way, way before I’d worked with her, she wasn’t a writer then she was a journalist.”
Recalling Binchy’s humour Connaughton said that Binchy had felt he had made ‘The Lilac Bus’ “too sexy” in his adaptation for television. “She was always joking with me about it, she said ‘I never realised it was so sexy!’ So that worked well.”
Dublin director Anthony Byrne (Single Handed) directed the 2007 film adaptation of Binchy’s short story ‘How About You’ and told IFTN that he would remember her as “a very generous and open person, full of life.”
He added: “I remember the pub lunches in Finnegans with Noel Pearson and Maeve, but my thoughts today are with her husband Gordon. I always admired their unique relationship and no one will miss her more than him.”
Irish director Stephen Burke (Happy Ever Afters) praised Binchy’s “unique and particular way of looking at the world”. Burke directed the TV adaptation of Binchy’s Cape Town-set short story ‘Anner House’. Although he never met her during the shoot, he recalled fond memories of the project.
He said: “I remember that the producers and writer (Anne Marie Casey) were determined that Maeve's vision for the film be maintained throughout and we were all delighted when she said that she was thrilled with the finished product. She is a big loss, her unique and particular way of looking at the world has been popular with readers and audiences for decades.”
RTÉ, who had a long relationship with Binchy and who commissioned a number of adaptations of her work for both television and radio, also expressed their sadness.
Director general Noel Curran, said, “Maeve’s contribution to the world of Irish writing is incomparable. She was one of Ireland’s most popular writers for a reason. She wrote about this country as she saw it – the tensions between our past and our present, our rural and urban ways.
“She worked with RTÉ on a range of television and radio programmes as well as sharing her own thoughts and observations on Irish life with presenters such as Gay Byrne, Marian Finucane and John Murray. She was a warm and honest writer, with a sharp and intelligent wit, and she was a warm and honest person too. She will be deeply missed.”
Jane Gogan, commissioning editor of drama for RTÉ Television, added: “Maeve Binchy was a woman of exceptional talent, delightful, kind and generous in the extreme. I always enjoyed the opportunities I had to work with her. She will be greatly missed from Irish Life.”
Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, also expressed his “deep sadness” and his sympathy to Binchy’s husband Gordon Snell and her extended family.
Minister Deenihan said: “She was a woman of immense intellect who had a wonderful ability to observe the Irish character and, in particular, the idiosyncrasies that make us uniquely Irish. Her work, whether as a journalist or as an author was infused with the skill of the truly great writer to transport the commonplace and ordinary to the uncommon and extraordinary. Out of the everyday, her sharp ear and exquisite pen created writing of enduring beauty, quality and appeal. Her prolific works will no doubt stand the test of time and provide a window into an emerging and ever changing Ireland.
“She was generous with her wisdom and time and will be remembered as someone who carried the torch for many emerging Irish women writers by sharing her experiences and knowledge with one and all.”
Maeve Binchy is survived by her husband, writer Gordon Snell.