Deirdre Purcell (1945-2023)

b. Dublin; dg. of a civil servant, growing up in Blanchardstown, Glasnevin and Castleknock; and ed. inner-city primary school and Gortnor Abbey, a convent boarding-school on Lough Conn as a scholarship pupil; took early employed as a civil servant and Aer Lingus reservations clerk; joins Aer Lingus Musical and Dramatic Society playing the part of Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest when she was recruited by the Abbey at an audition which she attends at the behest of a friend, 1965; appears as Christine opposite Donal McCann in Drama at Inish by Lennox Robinson, as Miss Frost in The Ginger Man (from the novel of J. P. Donleavy), and as Pegeen in in JM Synge’s Playboy of the Western World; becomes a permanent member of Abbey Theatre; appt. actress-in-residence at Loyola Univ., Chicago, 1968; marries a American actor and and fellow-student Robert [Rob] Weckler with whom two children (Adrian, b. 1973; Simon) and returns with him to Ireland 1973; divorces after four years with his return to the States; appointed Continuity Announcer on RTÉ (radio); becomes newsreader, 1977; joins NUJ and a TV journalist, 1979; becomes the first female anchor Nine O’Clock News to 1983; becomes Irish Press journalist, 1983; head-hunted and appt. Chief Features writer at Sunday Tribune, winning the Journalist of the Year Award, 1986;

presents “What It Says in the Papers” for Morning Ireland (RTÉ, Radio 1), up to 2018, when she retires to concentrate on writing; winner of both Benson & Hedges and the Cross awards for journalism; issued Ethiopia: The Dark Hunger, with Pat Langan (Magill Press 1984)commences writing fiction at a publisher’s suggestion; appt. to the Board of the Abbey Theatre as the Taoiseach’s nominee; serves Council of Credit Institutions as ombudsman; writes A Place of Stones (1991), a love-story about Molly Ní Bhriain, an actress from Inisheer which became a UK best-seller, topping 75,000 copies; acquires a second home on the Beara Peninsula, W. Cork; writes The Childhood Country (1992), another Irish love-story, followed by Falling For a Dancer (1994), in which a pregnant girl from Cork marries a Beara Peninsula widower to avoid humiliation - filmed in West Cork, 1997 and screened in 1998; appears at the Bangor Heritage Centre Celebration of Irish Writers, 1994; writes Francey (1994)k and then Sky (1995), following on with the story of Elizabeth from Falling; issues Love, Like, Hate, Adore (1997), being a sister’s defence of her brother who is charged with rape, which is short-listed for Orange Prize; publishes Entertaining Ambrose (2000), and then Marble Gardens (2002), in which old friends clash over alternative medicine for an ailing daughter while their respective partners ecome embroiled with one another;

publishes Last Summer in Arcadia (2003), a novel of former friends, Tess, Maddy and Rita, now married, on holiday in France - a passionate tale of love and betrayal; issues Children of Eve (2004), the story of Arabella, Rowan, and Willow, three children abandoned in the Botanic Gardens by their mother - the title character; appt. to Board of Directors of Bank of Ireland, 2003, holding that post during the national financial crash triggered by the Anglo-Irish Bank failure in 2008; writes Tell Me Your Secret (2006), and then Pearl (2011), set in 1920s Ireland and featuring Pearl Somers who lives in the gate-lodge of Kilnashone Castle where her father is chauffeur to Lord and Lady Areto; issues The Winter Gathering (2013) in which four of Maggie’s closest friends spend Christmas with her ten years after her husband’s departure - who unexpectedly returns; writes a life of Aengus Finucane [1932-2009], the Holy Ghost priest and founder of Concern (2015); left RTé in 2018 to concentrate on writing; issued Grace in Winter (Hachette UK 2019), died suddenly, of a stroke, d. 13 Feb. 2023 [aetat. 77]; at home, in Mornington, Co. Meath; survived by her second husband, Kevin Healy and her sons Adrian and Simon Weckler. ATT OCIL

Photos by RTÉ and The Irish Times (on the left; attrib. to Patricia Scanlan weeks before Purcelll’s death).

[ top ]

  • A Place of Stones (London: Macmillan 1991; reiss. Townhouse in assoc. with [Macmillan] Pan Books 1992), 476pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Signet 1993), 539pp. [see note].
  • That Childhood Country (Dublin: Townhouse 1992), 559pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Macmillan Pan 1992, 1993); Do. [rep. (London: Signet 1994) 559pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Macmillan 2011), 557pp.
  • On Lough Derg (Dublin: Veritas 1989), ill. by Liam Blake.
  • Falling for a Dancer (Townhouse/Macmillan 1993), 491pp., & Do. [rep. edns.] (Pan 1998; Townhouse2003), 496pp.
  • Francey (London: Macmillan 1994), 465pp., & Do. [new edn.] (London: Pan Books 1995), 550pp.
  • Full Circle (Dublin: Townhouse 1995).
  • Roses After Rain (London: Signet 1996), 493pp. [no prior edition cited; see note].
  • Sky (Dublin: Townhouse 1995; pb. 1996), 480pp.; Do. (London: Macmillan 1996), xii, 417pp., & Do. [another edn.] (London: Pan Books 1997), 420pp.
  • Love Like Hate Adore (Dublin: Townhouse 1997), [8] 483pp.; Do. [large print edn.] (Bathe: Chivers Press 1998), 498pp.
  • Billy and Jesus are Off to Barcelona [Open Door Ser.] (Dublin: New Island Books 1999), 77pp.; Do. large print edn.] (Bath: Chivers 2009, [short list] 2011), 92pp., & Do. [another edn.] (GemmaMedia 2008), 102ppp. [see note].
  • Entertaining Ambrose (Dublin: Townhouse 2000), 400pp.
  • Marble Gardens (Dublin: New Island Press 2002), 375pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Headline 2003), 536pp.
  • Has Anyone Here Seen Larry? (Dublin: New Island Press 2002), 80pp.; Do. [another edn.] (GemmaMedia 2008), 102pp. [see note].
  • Last Summer in Arcadia (Dublin: New Island Press 2003), 508pp.; Do. [another edn.] (London: Headline 2003, 374pp., Do. [large print edn.] (Leicester: Charnwood 2003), 534pp., & Do. [another edn.] (Hachette UK 2012), 386pp.
  • Children of Eve (London: Hodder Headline 2004), viii, 372pp., & Do. [large print edn.] (Leicester: Charnwood 2005), 564pp.
  • Tell Me Your Secret (Dublin: Hodder Headline Ireland 2006), 343pp.; see note].
  • Marble Gardens (London: Hodder Headline 2010), 375pp.
  • Pearl (London: Hodder Headline 2011), 448pp.
  • The Winter Gathering (London: Hodder Headline 2013, 2014), 448pp.; Do. [another edn.] (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland 2014), q.pp. [online resource]
  • The Christmas Voyage (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland 2017), qpp. [online resource].
  • Grace in Winter (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland 2019), 368pp. [see note].
Note: Townhouse is a Macmillan imprint [see more - infra.]
  • with Pat Langan, Ethiopia: The Dark Hunger (Dublin: Magill 1984), 95pp. [6 sections].
  • On Lough Derg, [with] words by Deirdre Purcell, photographs by Liam Blake, commentary by Joe Duffy (Dublin: Veritas Publications 1988), 114pp., ill., some cols.; ports., 23cm.]
  • Be Delighted: A Tribute to Maureen Potter, compiled & ed. by Deirdre Purcell (Dublin: New Island 2004), xii, 269pp. [ill. ports, facs.; 22cm.]
  • Follow Me Down to Dublin: The City through the Voices of Its People  (Dublin: Hodder 2007), xviii, 267pp.
  • Aengus Finucane: In the Heart of Concern (Dublin: New Island Press [distrib. Gill & Macmillan] 2015), 358pp., ill. [24pp. pls., ports. & maps.]
Translations (fiction)
  • Passion irlandaise: roman (Paris: Presses de la Cité 1992), 444pp. [A Place of Stones; see note]
  • L’Éte de nos seize ans, trans. J. Chicheportiche (Paris: Presses de la Cité 1994) [That Childhood Country]
  • also in trans. as Tá Jesus agus Billy ag imeacht go Barcelona, trans. by Lorraine Ní Dhonnchú [comhairleoir teanga: Pól Ó Cainín] (Dublin: New Island Books 2007), 116pp.; Do. [rep. edn.] as Tá Jesus agus Billy ag imeacht go Barcelona - rep. edn.: Foilsithe den chéad uair in 2007 agus athchloite in 2018 le New Island; Leabhar ón tsraith Open Door le New Island], 111pp.; Do. [rep. edn.] (New Island 2018), [see note].
  • Deirdre Purcell, Diamonds and Holes in My Shoes (London: Hodder Headline Ireland 2006), 377pp.
  • with Gay Byrne, The Time of My Life: An Autobiography (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1989), 224pp.
  • intro. Contemplating Ireland, photographs by James Gleason (Dublin: Atlantic Ireland, 2000), 96pp.
  • Intro. to Drogheda writes: An Anthology of Poems, Stories and Memoirs by members of Drogheda Creative Writers and writers from the Drogheda area, ed. Roger Hudson & Maggie Pinder (Co. Louth: Drogheda Creative Writers 2007), 122pp.
  • Days We Remember: Momentous Events in Irish Life (Dublin: Hachette Books Ireland 2008), 273pp., ill. [chiefly cols.; ports.; 26cm.]
  • contrib. to Ladies Night at Finbar’s Hotel: A Novel, with by Maeve Binchy, Clare Boylan, Emma Donoghue, Anne Haverty, Éilis Ní Dhuibhne, Kate O'Riordan, Deirdre Purcell, ; devised & ed. by Dermot Bolger (London: Picador 2000) [prev. 1999],

[ top ]

Shirley Kelly, interview, ‘A Change of Direction’, in Books Ireland (Sept. 1997, pp.201-03; Patricia Deevy, ‘The Dramas of Deirdre Purcell’, interview with Deirdre Purcell, in Sunday Independent (7 April 2002), p.4 [infra]; Sue Leonard, review of Children of Eve, in Books Ireland (March 2005), p.50. See various further excerpts under Commentary - infra.

See also British Writers, Supplement 24, ed. Jay Parini (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Charles Scribner’s Sons [2018], xiii, 527pp. [29 cm.] - which contains essay[s] on Purcell together with others on Michael Arlen; Dermot Bolger; Francis Brooke; Christina of Markyate; Sarah Corbett; Thomas Dekker; George DuMaurier; James Anthony Froude; William Gaskell; Marjorie Oludhe MacGoye; David Morley; Thomas Paine; Papadimitriou; Lynette Roberts; Ninian Smart; Raymond Williams. Note that essays on Caroline Blackwood, Dermot Healy, Patrick McCabe, et al., appear in Supplement IX, ed. Parini (2003). Parini has also edited Supplements on American Writers to the number of XXIXX, &c.

[ top ]

Maxine Jones, review of Sky in Tribune, Books, 3 Dec 1995; p.21, calling it a thriller in which American journalist Sky has affair with Irish policeman Lynksey that coming to a shattering stop in the Natural History Museum.

Teresa Doran, review of Sky, in Books Ireland (Nov. 1996), p.321f., naming Rainbow Sky MacPherson, a 34 year-old journalist in Butte Montana, as the female lead.

Lucile Redmond, review of Love Like Hate Adore (1997), a novel concerning Angela Devine, delicatessen worker and part-time kissogram, whose br. James’s girlfriend Rosemary Maden, a printer’s dg., accuses him of date-rape; narrator’s mother dg. of well-off Protestant mother who died in drug-related violence in Dublin; good girl who picks up the pieces; all other characters weak.

Sue Leonard, review of Marble Gardens, in Books Ireland (March 2002): Riba is on a mission to save her teenage daughter Zelda, who is suffering from cancer; both narrowly escape a plan-crash; her friend Sophie falls for Brian, while Sophie’s husband falls for Yvonne. ‘A satisfying beach read with more substance than most’ (BI, March 2002, p.58).

Yvonne Nolan, review of Marble Gardens, in The Irish Times [Weekend] (30 March, 2002), praising the ‘emphatic drawing of teenage characters’ and ‘canny understanding of the attractions of New Age-ism’ but deplores seeing ‘the fundamentally serious and intelligent Purcell, one of the best profile writiers Irish journalism ever had, struggling within the cliché-ridden confines of her chosen genre.’

Patricia Deevy, ‘The Dramas of Deirdre Purcell’, interview in Sunday Independent (7 April 2002), Living [sect.]: Purcell joined Aer Lingus after school; continued passion for drama and performance in airline’s musical and dramatic soc.; played opp. Donal McCann at Abbey; offered place on Loyola Univ. (Chicago) international theatre programme; m. Robert Weckler, American actor [at 24], and settled in Ireland, 1972; separated after 4 years; mother of Adrian and Simon; ‘I’ve great sympathy with publishers trying to market me. I’m very hard to market because I do keep changing. / Also, I don’t have a kind of sexy story to sell. I’m not young and nubile, I’m not a overnight sensation. I’m not out at parties. I’m not a jet-setter, I’m not a lady who lunches. There is nothing. so I have great sympathy for publishers. I’m not going ot plagiarise my family, I’m not going to use them. I’m not going to manufacture things - I’m just a jobbing writer, really.’ (p.4.)

Denise Deegan, ‘Deirdre’s Development’, review of Diamonds and Holes in My Shoes, in The Irish Times (16 Dec. 2006), Weekend: ‘[...] Convent school innocence was interrupted when a nun imparted the facts of life to a 17-year-old Purcell while she "patted and tidied" Crunchies and Curly Wurlys in the tuck shop. Though to get through it, the nun pretended that the teenager was a woman of the world already privy to the details. Purcell played along but the shock was enormous. / In that Ireland, people saved for what they wanted. It took Purcell 16 weeks to acquire her first pair of stilettos, which she wore until the soles were holed. But that Ireland was also a place of begrudgery and small- mindedness and this was instrumental in the return of her first husband to the United States without her and their two sons. "And of course he was out of love with me," is her poignant addition. [...] This is a gentle documentation of a full life, at times poignant, at times amusing, never self-congratulatory.’ [End.]

[ top ]

A Place of Stones (1991; reps. 1992, 1993 &c.) - An instant bestseller in Ireland and England, here is ‘an unputdownable story of Irish life and love’ (Maeve Binchy). Molly new nothing of her real past. For all she knew, she was a true-blue Irishwoman. When she traveled to America as a rising star of the screen, she fell in love with an irresistible American, not knowing that their love could only lead to a nightmare, and the truth of who Molly really was. (Books Google notice - online; accessed 13.02.2023). Note that the 1992 reissue was made by Townhouse (Dublin) in assoc. with Macmillan Pan - the latter being the only name associated with the first edition in COPAC - online (accessed 13.02.2023).

[Note reissue of A Childhood Country (1992) by Signet in 1994 - billed as an irresistible love story by the author of A Place of Stones.]

Tell Me Your Secret (2006): Violet Shine, 16, imprisoned in attic of family house on N. Co. Dublin coast having fallen in love with young Coley Quinn in the 1940s and incurred her parents’ wrath; Claudine Armstrong, drawn to the house sixty years later, unwittingly becomes a catalyst in the lives of the star-crossed lovers; sweep-love story, ends as tear-jerker. (See Claire Looby, Irish Times notice, “Weekend” [sect.] , 25 Feb. 2006; see also facetious notice in Books Ireland, Sept. 2006, p.203: ‘Moral: cut your daughter’s hair before locking her up [...]’.)

Passion irlandaise: roman (Paris: Presses de la Cité 1992) - Roman irlandais patronné par Maeve Binchy. Une substitution d’enfant (pour la bonne cause) entraînera vingt ans des complications dans la vie de Molly. (Books Google online; accessed 13.02.2023.)

Roses After Rain (1996) - In the bestselling tradition of Maeve Binchy comes this sweeping tale of Irish family drama centering on the young Francey Sullivan’s coming of age. Not only does a reunion with his long-lost father give Francey more than he bargains for, but an unexpected inheritance and a forbidden romance threaten to lead him astray from the simple life he cherishes. (Books Google notice - online; accessed 13.02.2023).

Billy and Jesus are Off to Barcelona (1999) - Billy is an average-looking sixteen-year-old who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood on the north side of Dublin. Jesus, on the other hand, is a beautiful boy with continental manners, from the most sophisticated part of Barcelona. As an exchange student, Jesus comes to live with Billy’s family for three weeks during the summer. At the end of his stay - according to The Plan - Billy will go back with Jesus on a return visit to Spain. And then, the best laid plans go awry. A riveting look at growing up in two cultures by the author of nine critically acclaimed novels. (GemmaMedia rep. notice to 2008 edn.; Books Google online.)

Tá Jesus agus Billy ag imeacht go Barcelona [trans. by Lorraine Ní Dhonnchú] (2007) - Buachaill sé bliana dé d’aois é Billy, a bhfuil gn´thchuma air agus a bhfuil cónaí air ar gnátheastát i dtuaisceart chathair Bhaile Á Cliatha. Ar an taobh eile den scéal, buachaill dathúil é Jesus le béasa ilchríochacha. Is ón Spáinn chun cónaí le teaglach Bhilly at feadh tríseachtaine samhradh amháin. Rachaidh Billy ar ais le Jesus ar chuairt ar Bharcelona. Ach, níor cheart d'aon duine pleananna a dhéanamh. (Amazon Books - online; accessed 13.02.2023).

[ top ]

Has Anyone Here Seen Larry? (2002) - Billy is an average-looking sixteen-year-old who lives in an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood on the north side of Dublin. Jesus, on the other hand, is a beautiful boy with continental manners, from the most sophisticated part of Barcelona. As an exchange student, Jesus comes to live with Billy’s family for three weeks during the summer. At the end of his stay - according to The Plan - Billy will go back with Jesus on a return visit to Spain. And then, the best laid plans go awry. A riveting look at growing up in two cultures by the author of nine critically acclaimed novels. (GemmaMedia rep. notice 2008.)

Grace in Winter (2019) - Grace has spent years devoted to the needs of others. Although her children are now grown, she remains the main carer for her highly destructive youngest daughter Leonie. When ex-husband Harry, for his own manipulative reasons, gifts the mother and daughter with a winter cruise, Grace accepts despite her reservations, hoping that a change of scene will do them both good. Ben, a novelist whose career is in freefall, is also on the cruise. Captivated instantly by Leonie’s beauty, he wastes no time in getting to know her - and Grace along with it. As the older woman grapples with unexpected feelings the encounter awakens within her, it is discovered that Leonie has gone missing. And the scene is set for a drama that will change the course of lives. [.. A] a compelling story of the struggle between duty and self, and of a feeling that never ages in a woman fighting to reclaim her own life. (Books Google notice.)

Kith & Kin: formerly married to young American actor by name of Rob [Robert] Weckler, with whom two sons, Adrian [b.1973] and Simon, and who returned to the States out of disaffection with Ireland in 1972 or 1973. Purcell remained with her two sons and later lived with her second husband, Kevin Healy - whom she met at RTE - in their home in Mornington, Co. Meath, where she died suddenly from a stroke on 13 Feb. 2023. Weckler, who is owner and director of Weckler & Associates, living in Antioch, Illinois at Feb. 2023, was formerly a student of Theatre at Loyola University, Chicago - the institution which Deirdre Purcell attended in 1968. Before going to Loyola he studied Theatre at Kendall College, 1966, on graduating from Glenbrook North High School, also in Antioch. He reached Loyola in 1968. A Chris Weckler appears to be a brother - being listed prominently with friends including his son Adrian on his Facebook page.

Besides her sons Adrian and Simon and neices, nephews, cousins and in-laws mentioned with others in acknowledgements to Grace in Winter (2019) are her husband Kevin and his children Justin and Zoe (Healy-Jensen) with partners Ciara O’Callaghan and Claus. Kevin’s brothers are Brendan and John (married to Deirdre) - also mentioned with thanks. Of her husband she writes, ‘Kevin Healy, my husband, has no idea how much he as helped [her] with all aspects of creating and sustaining this book. if you ar reading this, my gratitude for your unstinting support, in ways that only I know, has been immeasurable throughout the last twelve months, and that’s still the case now. Thank you from (what's left of) my heart.’

Adrian’s FB page shows him to be Technology Editor with the Irish Independent and former Digital Editor with the Sunday Business Post. He was educated at Colaiste Mhuire and Trinity College, Dublin [TCD] and lives with his wife Catherine O’Mahony in Drumcondra, Dublin. (She has a daughter Eve.) His journalism shows him to have worked in offices from the late 1990s, while his brother Simon took an Arts degree at UCD during 1998-2001. Adrian’s Facebook post for 15 Feb. 2023 returns thanks to the many who offered condolences at the death of his mother on the 13th and shows the RTÉ photo of her seated on the arm of a leather chair in a blue print dress with a silk scarf in light pink. Adrian commenced working for the Sunday Business Post - the paper founded by Damien Kiberd with others - in Jan. 2011. Rob Weckler uses a Free Palestine flag as background to his Facebook logo.

Townhouse Publishing, Ltd.: Purcell’s habitual publisher Townhouse (Bailey House, Fonthill Rd, Dublin Industrial Estate, Dublin 22) was incorporated on Thursday 7 October 2021 with the company no. 705527 and two shareholders (both directors and one a director of another Irish company). It self-classifies on its website as a publisher of books for children whose ‘mission is to combine quality, innovation, inclusion and sustainability in generous measures. We create delici’ous books that children (and their grown-ups) can’t wait to pick up and explore! Our list has many formats for 0 to 9-year-olds, including novelty board, picture books, cloth books, sound books, activity books and many more.’ (See online; accessed 13.02.2023. See also Solocheck online for company details.)

Hachette Ireland: Acknowledgements prefixed to Grace in Winter (2109) mention managing director Breda Purdue, publisher and editor Ciaran Considine, Joanne Smythe, and sale manager Ruth Shern.

GemmaMedia, Ltd., founded inbased in Boston, Mass. (USA) in 2008, is a non-profit publisher whose series Open Door for Literacy aims to ‘helps adults and young adults with low literacy discover the joy and life-changing power of reading.’ Authors published listed on their website a number of irish writers - viz.,

Irish writers: Deirdre Purcell (2 books); Patricia Scanlan (2 books); Peter Cunningham ([?3] books); Tom Nestor (1 book); Cecelia Ahern (1 book); Maeve Binchy (1 book); Nuala O'Faolain (1 book); Marian Keyes (1 book); Roddy Doyle (1 book). Others nations: Greta Gorsuch (5 books); Suzanne Kamata (4 books); R. Timothy Rush (3 books); Carol Miller (2 books); May-lee Chai (2 books); Laurie Foos (2 books); Loretta Welch (2 books); Carol Newman Cronin (2 books); Marta Maretich (2 books); Brian Bouldrey (2 books); Samuel Jay Keyser (1 book); David Elliott (1 book); Elizabeth Mosier (1 book); Nick Hornby (1 book); Charles Coe (1 book).

[ top ]