Sunday 16 December 2018

Shocked Nell pays a heart-rending tribute to the love of her life

LARISSA NOLAN

"WE SPLIT, but we never separated."

So said Nell McCafferty yesterday, in an emotional and heart-rending tribute to her former partner Nuala O'Faolain, who died that morning.

It was a brief, but painfully poignant description of a love between two people, the type so strong that it does not die, even when they cannot be together.

It was a rare outburst of personal feelings on the subject of Nuala from Nell.

She is known for being honest, outspoken and fearless about speaking her mind.

But some things are sacred, even to consummately candid Nell McCafferty.

For Nell, the one thing she would never talk about -- not publicly, anyway -- was her deep love for Nuala.

It was too intense. It was too private. It was probably too hurtful, also.

It was, and will always be, the big love of her life. It was unconditional and all-consuming.

And Nell was always too dignified and proud to speak about their relationship and their split after close to 15 years together

She isn't the type to wear her heart on her sleeve in such a way. She is far too strong for that. On the outside, at least.

Unlike Nuala, who spoke and wrote freely of the relationship and her feelings on it.

To those who knew Nell though, her love for Nuala was never in question.

She may not have talked about her hurt or her loneliness, but her conversations were always peppered with stories of Nuala.

Friends of Nell know she always held Nuala in the highest of regards, with a great respect and admiration for her brain, her mind, her intellect and her soul. It was as if she was still in the house they shared together in Ranelagh, Dublin -- still in the air, still a presence.

And with Nell saying: "We split, but never separated" that must have been how it felt to her, too. So we can only imagine the sense of loss and heartbreak Nell felt as she heard about the death of her friend yesterday.

"I'm just in disbelief texting the words: 'Nuala has died' and I just can't talk about it anymore," she said.

Nuala had only spoken last month about how she had aggressive, metastatic cancer and had decided to let nature take its course.

She told Marian Finucane that she had only weeks left. And she paid tribute to Nell, with probably the best compliment you could possibly give the Derry firebrand, saying: "I lived for years with Nell McCafferty and let's say 12 of those years were the greatest fun.

"I owe so much to them and in fact as far as I am concerned Irish women owe so much to Nell and I was dead lucky to live with her."

Estranged for a number of years, Nell and Nuala rekindled contact shortly before she died.

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