Maeve Binchy and the Irish Girls – a Tribute by Sarah Webb
Maeve was a huge inspiration to me as a young writer. I was the neighbour’s child – my mum grew up on the same road as the Binchy family and as a girl I heard all about Maeve and her marvellous writing career. She was the pride of Dalkey and everyone in the village was thrilled at her success after Light a Penny Candle was published.
After I published my first novel for adults, Three Times a Lady (2000), I met Maeve again at the launch of a charity book that we’d both contributed stories to and we had our photo taken together in mad hats for the Irish Independent. She kept everyone amused the whole way through the shoot – she had such a great sense of humour. She asked me about my book and gave me such encouragement that day – I’ve never forgotten her kindness. There were sixteen women contributors to the book – Irish Girls About Town – which went on to raise over 40k for St Vincent de Paul and marked the start of the long lasting friendship between the second wave of Irish women writers (after the first wave of Marian/Cathy/Sheila/Patricia), including Martina Devlin (columnist and author of Ship of Dreams), Martina Reilly and myself. We enjoyed ourselves so much at the event that we’ve been firm friends ever since (the ‘Irish Girls’) and meet as often as we can for lunch, dinners or to attend each other’s launches or special book events.
Maeve led by example. She firmly believed that the more women writers in Ireland the better and encouraged other women writers on their publishing journeys. She gave advice at launches and events, reviewed our books warmly yet honestly (most recently Kathleen McMahon’s This Is How It Ends), welcomed us into her home, talked about our books on the radio and the television.
As a young bookseller, I was always struck by the kind, considerate way she treated the staff, always interested in us as real people, always listening to our stories and our book recommendations (booksellers love waxing lyrical about their favourite new reads). She sent handwritten notes to the shop, thanking us for stocking her book. This is something that I have also tried to do along the way, inspired by Maeve. Booksellers are amazing, hardworking, passionate people, and deserve to be thanked!
Maeve will be terribly missed but never forgotten. And for the record, my favourite Maeve book is, and will always be, Circle of Friends.
- Sarah Webb