Feud for thought ...

MONDAY - Maureen Nolan
MONDAY - Maureen Nolan
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The late great Maureen Nolan would have knocked their heads together by now -– as her namesake daughter is first to admit. Blood is thicker than water, and all that.

But family feuds sell national newspapers especially when they involve squeaky clean ’70s singing sensations, The Nolan Sisters, the first big league European girl band of their day, who are still selling albums today, packing concert halls, or performing in their own right, after a knock-out comeback tour.

Just who are the Nolans today? Two key faces are missing from the line-up pictured on the latest new book to bear the surname Nolan as author. The Nolans Survivors, Our Story, is published by Pan Macmillan, £16.99 hardback, on April 13.

There is no sign of older sister Anne – who exposed their father, Tommy, as an abuser, in her book, Anne’s Story – or Denise, who has stood by her since.

Both were conspicuous by their absence from the line-up for the comeback tour last year, although Anne was in the band when they scored the first major biggie with In The Mood (For Dancing).

Whatever the reason, and it’s said to have been down to record company Universal’s choice, it caused a wealth of hurt for all involved.

Maureen admits: “I could have never imagined a day when Anne, Denise and I wouldn’t be talking to each other. It was going round in my head all the time until it was making me ill, and in the end I realised I had to disassociate myself or I’d give myself a nervous breakdown.”

Whether coverage of the book will give the girls a fighting chance of clearing the air is debatable. But Maureen concedes: “It wouldn’t have happened in our parents’ day. They would have been devastated.”

Publicity may promote individual careers and even the collective commodity now known as the Nolan Sisters (minus two), but national newspapers have no real stake in the sisters’ success, or concern for their welfare.

Here in Blackpool, which became their home, brought here as kids by parents Tommy and Maureen, they are OUR Nolan Sisters, and several, including Maureen, still live locally.

Which is why, right now, Maureen is delighted that she, and at least one other sister (Bernie), are back on not just speaking terms, but amicable terms, with their older sisters.

“I felt it deeply because we were the oldest so incredibly close, while the three younger girls tended to stick together too. It was horrible when we weren’t all getting on. The love’s still there but it’s family life, and families fall out. We like to get things out in the open, we don’t hold back. I’d like to think it’s all behind us now.

“We’re blessed to be normal.

“It’s other people who think we’re not. They just see The Nolans and the image.” To Maureen also fell the painful task of talking about their frail but feisty mother Maureen’s descent into the hell that is Alzheimer’s, finally surrendering body, as well as mind to a disease which robbed her, and her six daughters, and two sons, of the very essence of her identity.

“Alzheimer’s is a terribly cruel thing,” says Maureen. “It makes you feel such guilt, too, in how you deal with it, whether we did the right thing. People have asked whether it was therapeutic for me to write about it but it wasn’t.

“I constantly think about it but it made me feel all the pain again. Even re-reading what I’d written left me in tears.”

Each of the four sisters baring their soul for the book has a survivor’s story.

Linda talks of her devastation when her husband died – followed by her mother – as she was coping with breast cancer.

Bernie, by her own admission the wild child of the six girls, talks of the heartbreak of miscarriage, and cancer too. Coleen opens up on her marriages and reveals yet more secrets.

Cancer casts a long shadow over this family too. “It’s bad luck in our case, rather than genetics,” says Maureen. “I’m the lucky one. I haven’t had it. Anne’s clear of it, Linda’s had the all clear, Bernie is now free of cancer. They have been amazing, an inspiration, but it’s left me a tough act to follow. If it ever happens to me, I’ll have to try to be brave so can’t rant and rave and scream like I’d want to!”

Maureen also talks of her father’s violence towards their mother, when he had taken a drink. “What happens to you as children shapes you for all time and I think it affected me deeply,” she admits.

But she’s found her own happiness, having married, at 55, last year, her old flame Ritchie, and being reunited (along with Bernie) soon after, with Anne and Denise, and returning to a tearful embrace at Anne’s 60th birthday party in November.

Right now she can be seen pole dancing in a French maid’s outfit in Bournemouth in The Naked Truth. But truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction. Ask the Nolans.