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'Bernie will never be forgotten... she is still a part of our lives, even though she is not here'

With new show The Nolans Go Cruising airing soon, sisters Coleen and Maureen open up to Georgia Humphreys about loss, family feuds, and the dating scene

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The Nolans Go Cruising. Pictured: (L-R) Linda, Coleen, Anne, Maureen

The Nolans Go Cruising. Pictured: (L-R) Linda, Coleen, Anne, Maureen

The Nolans Go Cruising. Pictured: (L-R) Linda, Coleen, Anne, Maureen

Coleen Nolan was certainly dubious about making a TV show with her sisters. In the past, there have been public feuds between the siblings, who found fame as a hugely successful Irish girl group, The Nolans (first formed as The Nolan Sisters in 1974).

And 55-year-old Coleen - the youngest of the family - was worried they wouldn't get on as they travelled the Mediterranean together for The Nolans Go Cruising, which will air on Quest Red.

"You're together 24/7 for two weeks, which we haven't done since we were kids," notes the witty, no-nonsense Loose Women host.

"I thought, 'We could end doing this show and end up getting off this cruise and not ever speaking again'."

But, luckily, the opposite happened, and she feels she has reconnected with sisters Maureen, Linda and Anne.

"I feel closer to them now, I think, than ever," she says, before adding with a chuckle: "I mean, don't get me wrong, they still get on my nerves..."

The eight-part series finds all four sisters single for the first time in their adult lives, as they embark on two cruises on board the MSC Grandiosa.

We will also see them prepare for a performance of their hit I'm In The Mood For Dancing in front of their fellow passengers, on the final night of the trip.

"We were all really nervous and wary about doing that because obviously Bernie sang the lead in I'm In The Mood For Dancing," reflects Maureen (66).

Bernie Nolan

Throughout the show, the foursome mention their sister Bernie, who died of breast cancer in 2013, a lot.

Do they find it therapeutic to talk about their memories of her?

"It's very cathartic to talk things out, whatever it is," Maureen suggests thoughtfully.

"She will never be forgotten. She was too vibrant a character for anyone to forget her; all her friends feel the same, and, because we worked together for so long, every single song is a memory of Bernie. She was hysterically funny as well."

"When we do get together as sisters, especially when we were filming the cruise, I felt like she was with us because everything we did, it was like 'Oh, Bernie would have loved this', 'Can you imagine if Bernie was here?'," follows Coleen.

"She is still a part of our lives even though she's not here."

Opening up about the "falling-out period" between her and Anne, Coleen says they sorted out their differences "quite a few years ago" because, after losing Bernie, her priorities changed.

"You go, 'What were we doing? How stupid were we to carry that on as long as we did?'" she confides.

"Me and Anne, we did a lot of filming, just the two of us going off for the day, and I think it brought me and Anne probably closer than I've ever been with her, and (I'm) kind of regretting that I spent too long not speaking to her."

Both Maureen and Coleen are relieved that, even though The Nolans Go Cruising is described as 'part reality show', it's not a dramatic watch.

"They really weren't out to get a horrible story, or instigate arguments or anything," says Maureen.

"They did say, all the way through, 'If you say something and then you change your mind, because you didn't like the way that came out, then absolutely say'. So, we felt protected."

"I think that's what got the best out of us in the end, because we felt safe that they weren't trying to set us up," elaborates Coleen.

"A lot of these reality-type shows, they are scripted, and they are set up. I get it - the public loves a row and they say, 'It makes great telly'; I just didn't want to be a part of that."

What really comes out watching the show, however, is how happy they all are to be open about their personal lives, discussing everything from low self-esteem, middle age, and Linda's fight with incurable breast cancer.

The 61-year-old actress, singer and TV personality was in remission for six years following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2006, before being told by doctors in 2017 that she had secondary cancer in her hip.

"I see Linda every day because we live literally two doors away from each other, so I know what she's going through," says Maureen.

"When you hear her talk about it in-depth, it's very moving and you realise how fantastic she is."

After the death of her husband, Linda struggled to "even turn a corner", Maureen continues, and then her cancer returned.

"All of this has created arthritis as well, which is really debilitating.

"She doesn't complain very much, and she still loves a gin!"

"She's so vivacious and full of life, even I forget that she's dealing with cancer," admits Coleen. "She just takes it head on."

Mother-of-three Coleen announced her divorce from her second husband, Ray Fensome, in 2018.

So, did she find any love at all on the cruise?

"Oh God, I'd love to say yes, I really would. And trust me I looked, everywhere," quips the star, who shares 19-year-old Ciara with Ray, and is also mum to Shane Jr (31) and Jake (whose dad is actor and singer Shane Richie).

"In actual fact, we were kind of concentrating on finding Linda love, but, don't get me wrong, there were some beautiful-looking males where we'd all go, 'Oh, he's gorgeous'.

"The thing is, I'm all talk because I say all of this and then if one of them had even slightly said anything, I would have died and turned into a 10-year-old. I'd literally be overboard and swimming back to shore."

Maureen, who split from her husband in 2018 after 28 years together, adds: "There were all these beautiful men around, but you look at them and you think, 'Oh my God, they're 25', and Linda says, 'Never date a man you could have breastfed'."

"I always say I'd never date a man I could have given birth to," echoes Coleen. "That's my rule."

The Nolans Go Cruising starts on Tuesday on Quest Red and will also be available on dplay

Belfast Telegraph