THE PRIEST EXPLAINED to anyone who hadn’t been awake for the past thirty years, that Dalkey’s parish church was packed today because it was “having a funeral for one of the town folk”.
“And no, she wasn’t the first citizen of Dalkey, but she was the most famous,” added Fr William Stuart. “A wonderful citizen, a wonderful person and a wonderful interactor.”
Maeve Binchy was to Dalkey what Gay Byrne is to Howth, he explained.
The beloved author – who wrote dozens of popular novels which sold more than 40 million copies worldwide – passed away on Monday night after a short illness. She was 72. Her funeral mass today was attended by hundred of dignitaries, well-known personalities and locals wishing to pay their respects to a woman of huge talent. It was standing room only in the church, with dozens more waiting outside.
Binchy’s brother William and cousin Kate delivered the readings, one from Ecclesiastes and the other a letter from St Paul to the Corinthians, which focused on time, talent and love.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” began Kate. “Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love does not come to an end,” concluded William.
Traditional music was played throughout the service by uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn and the Deer’s Cry – I arise today was sang before the service came to an end.
Originally a teacher, Binchy started working for the Irish Times before she penned her first book Light A Penny Candle in 1982.
“I am very aware of the river of ink used to remember her this week and I don’t want to revisit what you have already read,” Fr Stuart told the congregation, after talking about her warm, infectious personality and the memories she has left the community with.
He spoke of her generosity and her non-traditional approach to religion and faith, before recounting an anecdote from another priest.
Her hallmark was her generosity, he said. Generosity of her time, her talent and her resources.
Remembering one particularly large donation to the church, he recalled how Binchy told Fr McDonagh, who concelebrated the mass, to “spend it on anything you want…as long as it’s not statues or holy pictures”.
“She wasn’t a religious person in the traditional sense,” continued the priest. “The divine eluded her.”
Fr McDonagh told the mourners how she once told him that when it was ‘her time’, she was sure the local parish would “dispatch her with dignity and without hypocrisy in a faith in which I envy and would love to share”.
He said he believed she had now gone to the Almighty and had already started talking to him. And then kept talking to him.
“Lord, you called her – you can listen to her,” the celebrant quipped to a great round of applause.
And she did get the last word at the mass as well. After being very insistent that there would be no flowers at her mass, the only bouquet that appeared was one on her coffin – a bouquet of yellow roses known as Rosa Gordon Snell. An appreciative murmur spread through the congregation as the priest explained she had named the flower after him as a surprise gift on his 65th birthday.
Hundreds of locals, umbrellas cocked, remained outside for the duration of the mass, keen to say goodbye to Maeve, who certainly was their first citizen.