When I was seven I can remember seeing The Nolans on Top Of The Pops miming their most commercial hit I’m In The Mood For Dancing. I can remember the five sisters (and there were two brothers) looking similar as siblings often do – and so young.
You expect folk to live a long life and generally die in the order in which they were born don’t you? However cancer cares for nobody nor their age and often indiscriminately picks one out to go early. Though Bernadette (Bernie) was the second youngest sister she died of cancer aged 52 and here I am at the Carleton Cemetery in Blackpool where here ashes are buried.
Carleton Cemetery is probably the main crematorium and cemetery in Blackpool and I’ve visited many times to seek out graves of actors and performers. I’d drove north from Lytham, passing Stanley Park (and Blackpool Zoo) where the other Nolans live. After a stroll round the cemetery I forced myself to the section housing the baby graves (Bernie’s ashes are here.) There are so many “Born Sleep” engravings you question if there’s anything powerful up there. Can the parents forgive an interventionist god?
Those poor kids who never took one lungful of air make me weep inwardly. No matter how many fly-wheels, pigs, rattles, teddy bears, footballs and dolls are piled onto these graves they mustn’t move even a nanometre of pain the parents feel daily. And this is just the baby section – countless other kids are buried in the adults section. If you’re having a bad day stroll round a baby graveyard. The crumbs of self-pity are blown away instantly and you realise how extravagantly lucky you are.
Yes, Bernie’s ashes are buried here – in the baby’s section as planned. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer aged 50 after a career as a singer (she was lead vocalist in The Nolans who sold millions of recordings worldwide particularly in Japan where they sold over nine million albums), a performer in numerous musicals and a television actress. Though it had spread to her lymph nodes she had treatment and was cancer-free. However two years later the cancer had returned and spread to most vital organs. She died while sleeping at home in Surrey and left a husband and daughter.
A grand funeral service was held at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre. Bernie’s ashes were later buried here in the children’s section. At 38 she’d given birth to a stillborn daughter Kate and her meticulously-planned funeral included joining her.
The crematorium or “Person To Powder” machine…
The funeral service was held at The Grand Theatre in central Blackpool…