Monday 19 February 2018

Ricky Tomlinson: 'Caroline Aherne's tears at Baby David's birth were real because she had no children of her own' Newsdesk and Press Association

Tributes have poured in for comedian and actress Caroline Aherne after her death from cancer aged 52.

The star was best known for hit sitcom The Royle Family and the riotous chat show The Mrs Merton Show, which both won a string of awards.

Aherne, who more recently narrated Channel 4 show Gogglebox, had been battling lung cancer and had previously been treated for bladder and eye cancer.

After her death was announced on Saturday her Royle Family co-star Sue Johnston, who played her on-screen mother, said: "I am devastated at her passing and I am numb with grief."

And another Royle Family co-star Ricky Tomlinson, who played her character's father Jim, said he was "so bloody shocked" at her death.

"She was absolutely wonderful and amazing to work for. Kind, funny, witty. A true professional and one of the most generous people I have ever worked with," he told the paper.

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC
File photo dated 29/04/1997: Caroline Aherne with her BAFTA award for Best Talk Show for the Mrs Merton Christmas Show. Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
File photo dated 15/05/1999: Eastenders actress Carol Harrison (left) with Sue Johnston (centre) and Caroline Aherne at the Whats On TV/Carlton party following the British Soap Awards. Photo: Michael Walter/PA Wire
File photo dated 27/01/2000: Caroline Aherne with fellow comedian Steve Coogan at the South Bank Show award. Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
File photo dated 03/04/1998 of Caroline Aherne starring in an advert for PG Tips. Photo: PA Photos/PA Wire
File photo dated 21/09/1999 of Caroline Aherne at the Elle Style Awards. Photo: Michael Crabtree/PA Wire
Caroline Aherne and her mother Maureen arriving at the BAFTA Television Awards in 1999. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Caroline Aherne at a party to launch the FilmFour channel in 1998. Photo: Ben Curtis/PA Wire
Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash, who starred as mother and son in the comedy series Mrs Merton and Malcolm, at the Royal Television Society Programme Awards in 1999. Photo: Peter Jordan/PA Wire
Award winning TV writer and comedian Caroline Aherne revealed she was fighting lung cancer in 2014
File photo dated 25/01/01: Caroline Aherne (centre) with fellow stars of The Royle Family Liz Smith (left) and Sue Johnston after they won the Comedy Award at the South Bank Awards, as Aherne has died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer, her publicist has said. Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
File photo dated 25/01/01 of actress Caroline Aherne attending the South Bank Awards, as she has died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer, her publicist has said. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Saturday July 2, 2016. See PA story DEATH Aherne. Photo credit should read: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire
File photo dated 31/05/2000: Caroline Aherne (centre) with the cast of The Royle Family (left to right) Craig Cash, Ricky Tomlinson, Sue Johnston and Ralph Little at the premiere of the film Maybe Baby. Photo: Peter Jordan/PA Wire
File photo dated 18/02/99: Actress Caroline Aherne who has died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer, her publicist has said. Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA Wire
File photo dated 14/05/2000: Actress Caroline Aherne with her BAFTA award for best comedy performance for The Royle Family. Photo: Rebecca Naden/PA Wire
Royle Family creator Caroline Aherne

Tomlinson, 76, revealed how Aherne over the two years she was battling the disease "never talked about her health" and that he could "never, ever remember her complaining".

He added: "She must have gone through a lot but I never saw her looking unwell. She never flagged in work and the atmosphere when she was writing and acting was brilliant."

He recalled the time when the actress's character Denise Royle went into labour and she sobbed with her dad Jim as he comforted her.

He said the tears that they both shed in the memorable 1999 Royle Family special scene were real.

And he revealed the tears they both shed that day were real.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it is the one that most sticks in my mind.

“I think it was so special to her ­because she didn’t have children.

“And it was so special to me because my own little girl, my Kate, was born on Christmas Day. And that’s why the tears were real.

“The cameraman who shot that scene was the son of a former Corrie star called Stan Ogden and at the end he was crying and said, ‘That’s it. We don’t need another take.’ It just stands out in my mind.”

Recalling his time of working with her, Tomlinson said Aherne would always make sure the cast would have a beautiful dressing room filled with flowers, a card and a bowl of sweets, and would often sending out for takeaways if they filmed late.

He added: "Every week when you finished filming there would always be a little present. A little bag of goodies and a Lottery ticket for everyone. It was those little things I loved her for. She was one of a kind."

Read More: 'I shall sing for you tonight... My god you made us laugh!': Noel Gallagher pays tribute to Caroline Aherne

Alan Partridge comic Steve Coogan hailed his "incredibly funny" long-time friend, telling ITV News: "It was almost like an honour to have her make fun of you because you couldn't help but laugh. It's hard to imagine not hearing that laughter."

Aherne gained public attention as the Checkout Girl in The Fast Show. But she became a household name as straight-talking blue-rinse granny Mrs Merton in The Mrs Merton Show, which first aired on BBC Two in 1995 and won the best talk show Bafta in 1997.

The Royle Family was born after she and friend Craig Cash, who played gormless Dave Best in the show, threw themselves into their work after a suicide attempt, which she described as her lowest ebb.

It is considered to be a classic British sitcom, despite the unusual format of a working class family sitting in a living room.

The BBC show was the toast of the 1999 British Comedy Awards, scooping four trophies including best actress for Aherne.

It went on to take home the best sitcom Bafta in 2000 and 2007.

Aherne was nominated for Baftas for her performance in both shows, as well as her directing of The Royle Family in 2001.

BBC director general Lord Hall said: "She was a brilliant, award winning comedy writer and performer, much loved by audiences - especially for The Royle Family and Mrs Merton and for her wonderful voicing of many shows. Our thoughts are with her family and friends."

Ralf Little, who starred as Antony Royle, brother to Aherne's Denise in The Royle Family, tweeted: "Sorry for silence - I just ... don't know what to say. What a sad, sad day. We've lost another one of our best.

"A character. A legend. A boss. A sister, real and (for me) fake. A boss. A writer. An actor. A genius. A friend. Big, big heart. Goodbye. X"

Aherne's death was announced by her publicist Neil Reading, who said she died on Saturday at her home in Timperley, Greater Manchester.

The star, who had been a smoker, struggled with health problems for years.

Born to Irish immigrant parents in London before being raised in Manchester, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the retina as a child - like her older brother Patrick.

She was sent to Lourdes in search of a miracle cure but was left with severely impaired sight in one eye.

She later fought depression and drink problems - giving a rambling and slurred acceptance speech at the British Comedy Awards in 1996 after being named best female performer.

She spent time in the Priory clinic following a suicide attempt, before moving to Australia to avoid the glare of publicity.

The star also had a string of failed relationships - her marriage to former New Order guitarist Peter Hook ended and she began a romance with TV researcher Matt Bowers.

They split, but she was devastated when he died of cancer at the age of 28.

She once admitted alcohol was an attempt to block out her problems.

Debbie McGee, the widow of magician Paul Daniels, said that Aherne's death was "very sad news".

She was on the receiving end of one of Mrs Merton's most famous lines, when she was asked in a 1995 episode: "What first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?"

McGee tweeted on Saturday: "Just heard the very sad news about Caroline Aherne, she was wonderful especially as Mrs Merton. My interview will be a treasured memory RIP."

John Thomson, Aherne's co-star on The Fast Show, said his friend had "raw talent" and "no agenda".

He said: " We've lost a great comedienne, actress and writer and sadly I've lost a very dear, very old friend.

"When I say lost, sadly a lot of us lost Caroline years ago. Thanks to the cumulative effect of the regular intrusion into her private life and particularly her personal relationships, Caroline opted out and became a virtual recluse, only to bless our screens at Christmas in the latest rendition of the Royle Family.

"Who can blame her? I know only too well, the pain that comes with the moniker 'celebrity'. She never wanted fame, she was a raw talent who accepted that fame was a mere by-product of her skill set."

He added: " She wasn't political, she never saw herself as a feminist or representing the minority of female comics. She didn't need to, there was no agenda, she was just funny.

"She was an incredibly funny woman on and off screen, whose raw talent and 'funny bones' never failed to make me roar with laughter."

Thomson said the last time he saw Aherne was while they were working on Sky comedy After Hours in 2014.

He said: " She'd just gone into remission again. Her hair, beneath her wig, had regrown and she was painfully thin, but despite all this she was on amazing form, the Caroline I knew and loved working with. This was the last time I saw her. I'm grateful for that fact, as that was how I would want to remember her."

Press Association

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