Life Lessons with Anne Nolan

Anne Nolan Pic: Brian McEvoy

Singer Anne Nolan speaks to Michelle Dardis about the notable moments from each decade of her life…

My childhood/teens…

Growing up, we lived in Finglas for a while on Ballyboughal Road, and whilst there, I broke my arm. It’s a strong memory! I was in plaster for about six months and I kept re-breaking it because I was swinging it around. I was a bit of a tomboy when I was a kid, you see. Then we moved to Raheny when I was five until we left for England six years later. We used to go down to Dollymount with jam sandwiches and a bottle of water and at the weekend go on steam trains to Skerries, Howth and Bray. I spent the whole time outside with the other kids on the road. I had a great and absolutely fabulous childhood in Raheny. I loved it. I was so young, but I remember it so vividly. When my children were young, I wanted them to have the same experience. It was so free, so marvellous, and we had no worries. Kids aren’t allowed play out the same way now.

My 20s…

My twenties were mostly spent singing with my sisters. We had a residency in a theatre restaurant on the West End of London. We toured all over Great Britain and Ireland. We were the opening act for our absolute favourite singer, Frank Sinatra during a European tour. We appeared on our first TV series The Cliff Richard Show, and then we had our biggest hit reach No. 3 in the British charts and No.1 in a lot of European countries. It was an amazing time of carefree, wonderful days but the biggest thrill of my twenties for me, was meeting and marrying my husband Brian in 1976 which was the start of a new life for me.

My 30s…

My thirties were the most important time in my life as both my daughters were born. When I found out I was pregnant I decided to give up showbiz and become a full time mum. That didn’t last long though as financially I needed to work so after two years I rejoined my sisters. Once again I was touring but my mum and my daughter Amy came with us everywhere. When she reached school age it was difficult because there were times when I had to be away from her. She was always in wonderful hands as her dad was a brilliant father and we had great help from my mum. My youngest daughter Alex was born in 1987 and again I was still touring but tried to be at home as much as possible or to take her with me when I could. My daughters brought a new meaning to my life and taught me that the most important things, above everything else, will always be my girls. I was – and still am – at my happiest when with them.

My 40s…

My forties carried on with a mixture of showbiz, home life, fun and happiness, which I more or less took that for granted until I was 49 and discovered I had breast cancer. I found my first lump when I was 29 which fortunately, was benign. On from there I found lumps in my breast almost every two years, so I’d always have them checked and they were always benign until I was 49 and unfortunately that one was cancer. I had chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. My husband was with me at the time and my two daughters. I was sick but I was still able to go to restaurants, to the cinema and be with the kids. Looking back, those six months went by quite quickly but at the time it felt like an eternity. I was diagnosed with it again during Covid. My sister Linda and I were fortunate enough that we were able to have our chemo together so we could keep each other company. I started to think about things that were really important, and anything that wasn’t, didn’t bother me anymore. It has to change your outlook on life, because you’re facing death.

My 50s…

There were quite a few changes during that period. I had been touring with Maureen for quite a while as our other sisters had pursued solo careers but after a few years we decided to call it a day. Two major things happened after that. One, I was divorced after almost 25 years and the second, I started an office job which saved my life in a way. When my marriage ended I thought my life had too and if it hadn’t been for my daughters I don’t know what would have happened, but they kept me going. We are friends now though and my daughters adore their dad. After my divorce, I got an office job as a civil servant where I worked for almost 12 years and I also released my first autobiography titled Anne’s Song which became a Sunday Times Bestseller.

My 60s…

My sixties brought the births of my two grandsons and my granddaughter. Once again I was reminded of what really matters in life. My grandchildren like my children have given me more love and happiness than I ever thought possible. This was also the decade when we lost my sister Bernie. I was 62 at the time, exactly ten years older than her. Before Bernie was diagnosed with her cancer, my sisters and I had fallen out, but during that period when Bernie was diagnosed, everything was forgotten about. She was fabulous throughout it, she was an inspiration. She was always laughing and joking, she wanted to join in on everything. She never let it get her down too much. When we were with her, she kept us going rather than us keeping her going. At the end of my sixties I once again discovered I had breast cancer almost 20 years to the day since my first. I am three years down the line now and hopefully will survive this one too.

Anne Nolan Pic: Brian McEvoy

My 70s…

I’m now in my seventies and I’m feeling great. I’m still on treatment to try prevent the cancer hitting my bones, I have it every six months for three years and my last one is next May. At the moment I’m fine, I’m having a double mammogram soon to make sure there’s no cancer in the breast but it’s a routine thing. Hopefully that will be clear. Other than that, I’m going on holiday next year with my youngest daughter Alex and her family to Disneyland, Florida. It’s one of my favourite places in the world. I haven’t been there in a while and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been so lucky with my kids and my grandkids. We weren’t a wealthy family and couldn’t afford much, but the fact people liked our singing, enabled us to travel the world and meet the most amazing people. I’ve had the most wonderful life. I’ve been blessed.

Anne’s book New Beginnings is available now in all major bookshops

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