A very personal reflection on the passing of Maeve Binchy

I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.” ~  Maeve Binchy

I was deeply saddened to hear last night of the passing of the beloved Irish author, Maeve Binchy. Although, I had long since grown out of her books, I still remember the thrill and excitement of reading her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, when I was a teenager. Here were characters talking in our Irish idiom, living lives we could identify with. She opened the door to a whole new generation of confident Irish female writers. Later, I found great joy in reading her regular Irish Times columns with her own unique outlook on life. I have such lovely memories of reading these pieces aloud to my mother on a Saturday evening. I remember my Mum’s tears of laughter at one particular piece as Maeve described watching two daughters hilariously patronising their aged, tottering mother on a day out. Mum used to always use Maeve’s phrase “taking mother out for the afternoon”, when I brought her out anywhere. Now I find myself longing to tell Mum of Maeve’s passing and share our memories of what her books meant to our mother-daughter relationship. I adored my mother, and I miss her so much since she died last year, but in truth our relationship was not always so close as it had been towards the last few years of her life. Sharing our love of reading Maeve Binchy was the first beginnings of a new adult relationship for us.

I have another reason to feel a deep affection for Maeve, as her sister Joan was my history teacher in school. Miss Binchy taught history as stories come vividly to life – as you can just imagine Maeve, who was  also a history teacher did. She encouraged us to use our imagination in our history homework assignments and this is how my love of writing stories began. The best thing that ever happened to me in my school days was being asked to stay behind class one day and being told that I had a gift for imaginative story telling. Miss Binchy planted the seed of being a writer in my mind that day. I never told that story to anyone, but kept it as my own secret dream, and while I abandoned my dreams of writing for many years, it’s been a joyous thing to discover the light of that dream has been lit again for me, just like Maeve’s penny candle.