The sad news has just been announced that brave and beautiful Bernadette Nolan has passed away at the age of 52. The mother of one lost her three year battle against breast cancer this morning and I so wish that the outcome could have been different. Even though Bernie had made no secret of the fact that her illness was terminal and gave interviews earlier this year admitting that she didn’t have long to live, everyone who knew of her plight was deeply moved and we prayed that Bernie might be granted the miracle she was so desperately hoping for so that she would be able to see her beloved daughter Erin grow up and of course have more time with her husband of seventeen years, Steve Doneathy.
Nostalgia Pie doesn’t do sad. One of the reasons why I started this blog is because I wanted everyone to experience that fuzzy, warm glow they get from wonderful long-forgotten memories that have suddenly been rediscovered. So that’s how we’re going to remember the lovely Bernie Nolan, with fondness, because even though I didn’t know her personally, she didn’t come across as a woman who did sad either – and her final interviews are testament to that.
People of my mother’s generation will remember Bernie as part of The Nolan’s: the all singing, all dancing super talented group of Anglo-Irish sisters who hailed from Blackpool. They were most popular during the 1970s and early 1980s but they remained well known throughout the years, with the sisters – including Colleen Nolan – turning their hands to acting and television presenting while still being active in the music industry. They are well remembered for their 1979 hit, I’m In The Mood For Dancing
However, I first saw Bernie on television, when I was a child and she was appearing in a children’s’ TV show. I cannot remember the name of the show (I must have been very young) but I do remember that her sister Linda was also appearing and that there was a lot of gunge involved! Many years later, I saw her in the television role for which I best remember her – playing Diane Murray in Channel 4 soap Brookside. Her character was a devout Catholic second wife to a man who had three children from his first marriage. Even though Diane loved being stepmother to the kids, she couldn’t fight the longing she had for a baby of her own. Viewers shared her highs and lows as she struggled to become a mum. Sadly it never happened, and her character was eventually killed off.
Diane Murray was one of my favourite characters in the soap. There was something genuine, compassionate and warm about the character. Most actors often say that they have to inject a little bit of themselves into the character that they are playing in order to make them convincing. And I’m sure Bernie put a lot of herself into playing Diane Murray. As a star of stage and screen, Bernie had the most dynamic presence; an open face with soulful eyes and the most amazing smile that lit up her entire face. Prior to her illness, she came across as effortlessly glamorous. Even when the cancer caused her to lose her gorgeous blonde locks, she still looked stunning. That, to me, is a sign of true inner beauty. And it is for this inner beauty that she should be remembered by her fans. Not to mention her amazing singing voice.
I sincerely hope that the press will not label her ‘tragic’ Bernie Nolan which is a tag that often befalls anyone in the public eye who has endured suffering, pain, loss and tragedy, because when you look at pictures of her smiling, she looks anything but tragic. Even during some of her final interviews there seemed to be a sense of peacefulness that radiated from her. Bernie, herself, said that she did not want to be remembered as someone suffering from cancer:
‘Cancer has become a part of my journey but it’s not the whole story. There’s so much more to me than that. I’m a wife, mother, daughter, singer, actress, sister, friend and auntie. Those are the roles I want to define me.’
And that’s exactly how she’ll be defined. I hope her family and friends find comfort in knowing that even though they were the ones who were fortunate enough to know and love her, the millions who loved watching this very talented lady thought she was incredibly remarkable too.
Thank you for the years of entertainment, Bernie. Sleep peacefully.