Member of 1970s group the Nolan Sisters
Bernie Nolan: Born: October 17th, 1960 Died: July 4th, 2013
Bernie Nolan died aged 52
Bernie Nolan, who has died of cancer aged 52, was the youngest of the original Nolan Sisters lineup, whose cheerful middle-of-the-road pop made them one of Britain’s best known acts from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
The five siblings began performing as the Nolan Sisters in 1974, appearing on Cliff Richard’s television programme, and then with Morecambe and Wise and the Two Ronnies.
In 1978 they reached number three in the UK album charts with 20 Giant Hits, a set of cover versions of pop standards. That year, Denise left the group to develop a solo career. The others continued as a quartet.
In 1979, they released I’m in the Mood for Dancing, a perky tune that incorporated a disco beat and featured a full-blast lead vocal by Bernie. It would become their biggest hit, reaching number three in the UK and topping the charts in Japan, where it sold 600,000 copies.
In early 1980, the group became the Nolans, shortly before Anne left the group temporarily following her marriage. She was replaced by another sister, 15-year-old Coleen. That year’s album Making Waves lodged in the UK charts for 33 weeks, and generated the hit singles Don’t Make Waves, Who’s Gonna Rock You, Gotta Pull Myself Together and Attention to Me.
In 1982 Anne returned to the fold, but things were slowing down: that year’s compilation Altogether didn’t even crack the UK top 50. In 1994 Coleen left to have a baby, and Bernie quit the following year to pursue a career in acting. She had appeared in the play The Devil Rides Out in 1993 and went on to become a popular face on stage and television.
Bernie and her sisters had travelled far from their Dublin origins: their parents, Tommy and Maureen, had moved the family to Blackpool in 1962.
It was only decades later that the sisters revealed the stresses they had been subjected to, being forced to perform at nightclubs into the small hours while still schoolgirls. It transpired, too, that their hard-drinking father (who died in 1998) was violent towards his wife and daughters, and sexually abused Anne.
By the time of these revelations, Bernie had built a high-profile career as an actor, having appeared on Channel 4’s Brookside after being spotted in the stage musical Blood Brothers. Later she played Sgt Sheelagh Murphy in ITV’s The Bill. She is survived by her husband, Steve Doneathy, and their daughter, Erin.