International Siblings Day: Familiarity breeds respect

To mark International Siblings Day, Jonathan deBurca Butler speaks to four Irish celebrities about their relationships.
International Siblings Day: Familiarity breeds respect

Rachel and Roz Purcell grew up in Fethard, Tipperary. Roz (26) is a well-known Irish model while Rachel (29) works as a digital account manager. The sisters live together in Dublin. Rachel was recently diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia which she is keen to stress is “very manageable”.

The sisters have come together in conjunction with Ballygowan to launch a campaign raising cancer awareness. From now until August, labels on the biggest selling lines will turn from blue to gold and a donation for every bottle sold will be made to cancer services.


We have an older sister who is five years older than me and she still lives in Tipp. We are all very close but myself and Roz are up in Dublin. I think that because myself and Roz were closer in age we did everything together. My older sister was off with her friends a bit more doing her thing.

When we were younger we had moments when we couldn’t stand each other. Sometimes our parents used to dress us up in the same things and as the older one I hated that because I wanted to be cooler.

I also wanted to be with my friends and I’d have my little sister going everywhere with me but I think that’s the same with everyone. But we do get on well. If we do argue now, we usually end up laughing about it five minutes later.

Roz came up to Dublin first. She moved up here when she went to college. I had finished college and I went to work in Toronto for two years. We used to keep in touch every Sunday. I made it my business to do that. And being away it makes you appreciate each other a bit more. I think it actually made us all a lot closer as a family.

When I moved back, I decided to move to Dublin and then eventually ended up moving in with Roz about two years ago.

We were a bit apprehensive at the start but it’s worked out really well. She cooks for me. She always in the kitchen trying new recipes. And she’s very good, she knows that if I’m going to be late, she’ll send me a message telling me there’s dinner there waiting for me. It’s comforting. And it’s great to be able to get honest opinions from someone. We help each other out a lot work wise and personally as well. It’s like living with your best friend really. And we get to borrow each other’s stuff. I probably borrow way more of her’s than she does mine.


It was a year in January that we found out about Rachel’s illness. I was at home baking in the kitchen and I heard her come in and run up stairs. I could feel that something was up. I knew she had an appointment that morning because we had gone to the doctor together originally.

Getting that news, it’s like you’re winded. But I think more than anything because it’s out of your control, you feel very helpless.

The type of cancer Rachel has is quite manageable so in ways it’s just the new normal. On days like this I’m looking at her and thinking ‘oh yes you have this cancer’ so you kind of forget. I think the support that I give is just more of a distraction really. I mean obviously I am there for her if she needs to talk but I think I’m there more to just find a way to get back to being normal. Rachel is the nice one.

She’s the one who remembers everyone’s birthdays and rings our aunties and the like. She’s very good at always being there for people. As well as that she’s very clean. So I will bake and cook and she’ll clean up. She helps me with my work too. She’s quite organised so I suppose where I lack she kind of drives it along so we’re a perfect duo together that’s why it’s great to be working on this campaign with her.

Leinster front row pair Bryan and Ed Byrne are twins from Carlow. Bryan is three minutes older than Ed. Ed, who was out injured for over two years, has been back in the senior squad since January. The twenty-three-year-olds share an apartment in Dublin.


We’ve always been close and we’ve been playing on the same team all the way up. We do a lot of things together so we’re always looking out for each other. I suppose when we were younger there might have been in a couple of scraps but nothing major.

Now we live with each other in Dublin and he leaves me to do the cooking most times which can be a little frustrating but besides that we get on great. It really helps that he’ll just say it to me straight and I know I can trust him. Others might try and sugarcoat it but I know we can tell each other the truth about our game. We know each other’s game really well too so I know when to expect an offload or when to be on his shoulder.

We are identical. Ed’s got a bit heavier than me so people can see a difference now. Or at least some people can. Ed is in Commerce in University College Dublin and I’m doing a different course so you might get a woman coming up to you thinking I’m Ed and so I’d sometimes just chat away and see how I get on.

He tore his ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) in his knee in November 2015. That eventually healed up but then he was coming back from that, playing his first game, and seven minutes in, he ruptured a tendon in the same knee. He went through a seriously tough time. The second injury wasn’t healing as quickly as we thought it would and we were worried for a while that he wouldn’t play again.

I really admire his courage and determination and the hard work that went into getting himself fit again.


That two-year period was very tough. It was unbelievable to have Bryan there. Just to have someone to talk to. I was probably at home repeating myself and between him and my girlfriend, Rebecca, they got a fair whack of it. I’ve been going out with Rebecca for three-and-a-half years. She gets on well with Bryan. I don’t think it was too strange for her that we were twins, though she did mix us up once or twice at the start but it was all fun and games. And the thing about Bryan is he’s always in good form so she finds him hilarious.

I think people assume we are competitive but we get massive satisfaction out of the other one doing well. When I was going through tough times I was always delighted to see Bryan doing well and getting his caps and I got a huge lift out of it. Bryan has a calf strain at the moment but he’s delighted for me that I’m playing this weekend.

We’d push each other on. Even in the off-season we’d go running together and do weights and that. If one of us is feeling lazy we can give the other a bit of a nudge on too. Bryan also has a bit more of an engine on him so I like to try and pit myself against him and keep up. We keep each other motivated.

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