Tributes Pour in for the Royle Family Creator Caroline Aherne

Image: BBC/Granada

On Saturday 2nd July it was announced that BAFTA award-winning comedy writer and actress Caroline Aherne had died in her home in Timperley, Greater Manchester at the age of 52.

Her publicist confirmed Aherne had died from lung cancer, which she’d suffered from, for the past two-years after previously overcoming bladder and eye cancer.

Aherne spent much of her life battling cancer as well as other demons including alcoholism and depression. However, was responsible for creating some of the most-loved and endearing characters on British television.

Aherne is best known for starring in and writing BBC hit, The Royle Family, as well as the earlier The Mrs Merton Show and narrating Channel 4’s Goggle Box.

She rose to prominence in the early 90s with her satirical chat show hosted by Aherne’s Mrs Merton. However, her true popularity grew with the co-creation of The Royle Family, which ran from 1998 to 2000, with specials airing from 2006 to 2012.

The show focused on Aherne’s character’s Manchester-based working class family. Almost the entirety of the ‘action’ was spent in the character’s living room watching them, watching television. Despite the unlikely subject matter, the show was a huge critical success, and bolstered the cast and particularly Aherne to the British television hall of fame.

Aherne struggled with health issues for a number of years and in 1998 was admitted to hospital after overdosing on sleeping pills. However, after successfully recovering, committed herself to The Royle Family along with friend and co-creator Craig Cash.

In 2001, Aherne dramatically quit the show after being treated for depression and alcoholism at The Priory clinic in London. She moved to Australia for five years, returning to the UK and our televisions in 2006 with a Royle Family special.

In 2014 Aherne spoke of how cancer affects families and of her latest diagnosis whilst talking at an appeal to sanction improved cancer care in Manchester. Both her and her brother had been born with a rare form of retina cancer. She said, “My mum told us that only special people get cancer. I must be very special because I’ve had it in my lungs and my bladder as well.”

As recently as April, she paid her own tribute to her friend and fellow cancer sufferer Victoria Wood. “[Wood had a] rare gift of making us laugh at the mundanities of life with a humour that was never cruel and only ever warm. A true comic genius.”

Since the saddening news, many tributes from friends, colleagues and fellow-entertainers have been paid via social media to one of Britain’s best-loved comedic stars.

Yesterday Aherne’s co-actor Ralf Little’s was one of the high-profile tributes. Little played Anthony Royle, Aherne’s character’s (Denise) younger brother in The Royle Family.

On-screen father Ricky Tomlinson, paid his tribute when speaking to the Sunday Mirror. They report he spoke of his friend and colleague whilst holding back the tears.

He said: “I’m so bloody shocked. She was absolutely wonderful and amazing to work for. Kind, funny, witty.”

“A true professional and one of the most generous people I ever worked with.”

He continued, “She never talked about her health, ever. I can never ever remember her complaining.”

“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.”

Sue Johnston who played Aherne’s Royle mother, Barbara simply said, “I am devastated at her passing and I am numb with grief.”

Cancer Research tweeted:

Friend and fellow entertainer Matt Lucas tweeted:

It was on The Mrs Merton Show where Aherne infamously straight-faced asked Debbie McGee, “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

The question was so well received that it has been reused countless times since, rightly cementing its place in British television history.

David Baddiel tweeted:

David Walliams similarly tweeted:

Close friend Steve Coogan wrote a touching article in the Guardian about Aherne’s passing, where he said, “She used to make me cry with laughter.”

Caroline Aherne with Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher and actor Steve Coogan CREDIT: RICHARD YOUNG/REX-SHUTTERSTOCK

Royle Family co-star Andrew Whyment tweeted:

Fellow-entertainer Lenny Henry tweeted:

Tributes came from people outside of comedy also, including Elly Goulding, Jamie Carragher, Piers Morgan and many others:

Aherne joins a list of greats who have sadly passed away this year. Although, not internationally recognised to the levels of Prince or David Bowie, Caroline Aherne will always be British ‘roylety’.

RIP Caroline.

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