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Friday 30 September 2016

Together for 95 years - Ireland's oldest identical twins die just two days apart

Lorraine Teevan

Published 07/10/2015 | 08:28

Kathleen (left) and Sheila both passed away at the weekend aged 95
Kathleen (left) and Sheila both passed away at the weekend aged 95

Ireland's oldest known twins passed away within two days of each other at the weekend.

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Identical twins Kathleen and Sheila Keogan from Aughalion, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan passed away aged 95.

Sheila passed away on Friday morning, October 2 and, despite Kathleen not being told of her death, she followed her on Sunday afternoon.

The pair were born on June 14, 1920 to John and Margaret (Mama) Keogan and were part of a large family of ten children - Mary, Eileen, Peg, James, Paddy, Terry, Sean and Bernadette.  

As twins, the duo did almost everything together.

They attended national school in Cormaddyduff School, Cavan and then they moved on to the famous Gilsen-Endowed Academy in Oldcastle, Co. Meath before they both moved to London to train as nurses in Fulham Hospital in 1938. 

Identical twins Kathleen & Sheila Keogan pictured together as young women. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Identical twins Kathleen & Sheila Keogan pictured together as young women. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Sheila and Kathleen both served as nurses during the Second World War, surviving the Blitz from September 1940 to May 1941.

The twins wrote home to their family in Cavan most weeks to let them know they had survived another week in bomb-ridden London.

Twin Sheila Keogan who passed away on Friday, October 2. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Twin Sheila Keogan who passed away on Friday, October 2. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

There was one scary occasion when they survived a direct hit on the hospital in Hammersmith.

The bomb struck the centre of the building with the twins separated in the two wings, and it was two days before they found out whether their twin had survived or not. 

Kathleen Keogan died on Sunday afternoon despite not knowing her 95-year-old twin sister Sheila had passed away only hours earlier. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Kathleen Keogan died on Sunday afternoon despite not knowing her 95-year-old twin sister Sheila had passed away only hours earlier. Photo: Lorraine Teevan

They nursed patients in makeshift wards in the London Underground and, due to the less than ideal conditions caused by the war, they both contracted TB.

After a tough time in London, the Keogan twins were said to follow their own philosophy of 'a little of what you fancy does you good!'.

They were known for attending the glamorous dances of the time and also travelled to a range of places including San Francisco, the Bahamas and Rome together.

Kathleen had a fondness for cars and owned, among others, a Ford Mustang and Karmann Ghia, which was especially shipped from Germany for her.

Sheila and Kathleen both returned to their beloved home place of Aughalion, Cavan for retirement.

They both decided to enter the Sheelin Nursing Home in Mountnugent and loved living there.

“Kathleen & Sheila were proud Keogan women," their nephew Damien told Independent.ie.

"Neither of them married but they were loved deeply by all their family, their surviving brother Sean and sister Bernadette, all their nephews and nieces and everyone that knew and loved them. 

"They were wonderful ladies, full of fun, love and a sense of adventure.” 

Kathleen and Sheila remain together in death and were buried together in Castlerahan cemetery.

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