Tributes pour in following death of ‘comic genius’ Caroline Aherne

Caroline Aherne has died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer, her publicist has said. Photo:

Caroline Aherne has died at the age of 52 after a battle with cancer, her publicist has said. Photo: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Tributes have poured in on social media for Royle Family actress and comedian Caroline Aherne after her death aged 52.

Aherne, who rose to fame as cult chatshow host Mrs Merton and cemented her position by creating the sitcom The Royle Family, had been battling lung cancer and had previously been treated for bladder and eye cancer.

The passing of the Mancunian star, who was more recently the narrator of hit Channel 4 show Gogglebox, was announced by her publicist on Saturday and celebrities took to Twitter to voice their sadness.

Ralf Little, who starred alongside Aherne as brother Antony in the hit sitcom, wrote on Twitter: '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'

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Coronation Street star Andrew Whyment, who played Darren on The Royle Family, fondly remembered their time together.

He wrote: 'So sad 2 hear the passing of Caroline Aherne it was a privilege to have worked with her on the Royle Family very talented woman indeed RIP X.'

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Actress Sue Johnston, who played Aherne's character's mother Barbara in the Royle Family, said in a statement: 'I am devastated at her passing and I am numb with grief.'

Singer Ellie Goulding wrote: 'So so sad to hear about Caroline Aherne. The Royle Family is one of the greatest British comedies. She really was a comic genius. Sleep well.'

This Morning host Phillip Schofield added: 'So desperately sad to hear of the death of Caroline Aherne. Such a unique and gifted lady. Lots of love to all her family & friends X.'

Actor Max Beesley wrote: 'Heartbroken to hear of the loss of my dear old friend £carolineAherne. She was a one off talent...'

Radio 1 presenter Nick Grimshaw wrote: 'Ah I love Caroline Aherne! Such sad news to hear she's died. So loved in the Grimshaw household. One of my favourites, rest in peace X.'

Aherne was one of TV's brightest comic talents, whose character Mrs Merton and northern sitcom The Royle Family became instant classics.

The award winning TV writer and actress, who also narrated Channel 4's Gogglebox, was the co-creator of the acclaimed sitcom.

The former star of the Mrs Merton Show, who beautifully mimicked a blue-rinse granny in the chat show which first aired on BBC Two in 1995, was voted best female performer at the British Comedy Awards the following year.

The daughter of a railwayman and a school dinner lady, Aherne split with husband Peter Hook, guitarist with pop group New Order and house musician on the Mrs Merton Show, in April 1996.

She had a relationship with TV colleague Matt Bowers, but they broke up before he died of cancer the following year, aged 28.

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.

The creator of Cracker, Jimmy McGovern, said he was 'gobsmacked' when he first saw a preview tape of his friend Aherne's new sit-com. 'I hadn't been that impressed with a comedy since Fawlty Towers,' he said.

The Royle Family was the toast of 1999's British Comedy Awards, scooping four trophies including best actress for Aherne.

Denise Royle, mother Barbara (Sue Johnston) and father Jim (Ricky Tomlinson) - catchphrase 'my arse!' - quickly entered the British sit-com hall of fame.

Its success quickly began to obscure exactly how daring the format had been at the beginning - 25 minutes of comedy based largely in one working class living room.

The BBC show even had one episode based entirely around the Royles watching rival ITV's big hit, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Aherne was born to her Irish immigrant parents in London, and the family moved to Wythenshawe, Manchester, when she was two.

She was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the retina, like her older brother Patrick before her, and the local Catholic church raised funds to send her to Lourdes in search of a miracle cure.

For the rest of her life the actress was left with severely impaired sight in one eye.

Very bright - nine straight As in O-levels from her convent school and an IQ of 176 - she studied drama at Liverpool Polytechnic then took a job as a BBC secretary in Manchester.

She met Cash and fellow Royle Family collaborator Henry Normal in 1990 and they encouraged her to develop her repertoire of comedy characters, including Mrs Merton.

Before long celebrities were queueing up to be insulted in Mrs Merton's unique way on primetime TV.

In the guise of the squeaky-voiced pensioner with an elaborate coiffure, Aherne was able to ask Debbie McGee: 'What was it that first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?' and 'Were you breast-fed, Carol Thatcher?'

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