Everybody calls them the girls. Maeve will be 100 next week and Nuala will be 95 on Saturday. They could not be more different and yet are so much alike. Now, with age, they are almost blind, almost deaf, but show them a family photograph and give a few hints and they are off remembering every detail. Maeve always was the independent one, running her own business in 1950s Ireland, selling women's fashion from her own van all over the country when a single woman could not get a room in a hotel. In some places they let her sleep in the empty ballroom. I asked her if she was ever afraid, out there as a single woman and she gave me a puzzled look. Why? I never even locked the van. She married late, another independent soul and when he died, she took her sister Nuala along and travelled the world sending postcards from Hongkong and Buenos Aires and Alaska and Nairobi. Maeve's laugh echos from the walls, she never stops talking with her deep hoarse voice. Nuala, sweet little Nuala, was born at a time of great poverty when the family was going through a bad patch. She was ill for most of her childhood and has no education as she likes to point out. She was always carried along by her brothers and sisters and looked after children as long as they weren't too wild and worked as a housekeeper for some very nice priests. She knows all the saints and feast days and can rattle off the rosary in no time. As long as her eyes would let her she sang in a choir, even performing in the National Concert Hall when the nation could watch her on TV.
They are the last of seven siblings. I think they are absolutely gorgeous.